Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook has withdrawn himself from consideration to play for Team USA at the 2016 Olympics, becoming the newest addition to the lengthy list of NBA superstars that won’t be headed down to Rio this summer.
Westbrook didn’t give a specific reason for his decision, but released the following statement on Friday:
“After speaking with my family, I have decided to not participate in this year’s Olympics. This was not an easy decision, as representing my country at the World Championships in 2010 and the Olympics in 2012 were career highlights for me. I look forward to future opportunities as a member of USA Basketball.”
He joins Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, LaMarcus Aldridge, John Wall, Blake Griffin, and Anthony Davis as Team USA finalists who won’t be suiting up in the red, white and blue this summer. But while the other withdrawals can be attributed to injury concerns, Westbrook’s brief and enigmatic statement has left the NBA world in the dark.
After logging 3,424 minutes, playing 98 games and embarking on a deep postseason run, could it be that he just wants some time off?
In his exit interview after Oklahoma City’s season came to an end at the hands of the defending champion Golden State Warriors, Westbrook — who enjoyed his first injury-free season in three years — said that his primary concern this summer would be just that: Time off. Had he decided to compete with Team USA, some quality rest and relaxation would have been tough to come by, as the USA Basketball summer showcase tips-off on July 22, followed shortly thereafter by the start of the Olympics on August 5.
There is no evidence to suggest his decision was made as a precaution against the threat of the Zika virus, and earlier in the week, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo told USA TODAY Sports that no player has indicated he won’t go as a result of the virus.
“We have been on top of that,” Colangelo said. “We understand what the circumstances are, what the risks are and to whom and we are moving forward on all of our plans. Everyone is aware of the circumstances.”
Westbrook — a two-time gold medalist with Team USA (2012 Olympics, 2010 FIBA World Championship) — was as close to a sure-thing for a spot on the final 12-man roster as anybody, coming off a career-year where he posted averages of 23.5 points, 10.4 assists, 7.8 rebounds while leading the league with 18 triple-doubles. And while there’s no shortage of talent lined up for Olympic consideration, Westbrook would have been a valuable asset for coach Mike Krzyzewski’s Olympic squad, and after Curry’s withdrawal, he would have been next in line for Team USA’s starting point guard duties, a position that will now likely be filled by Kyrie Irving or Damian Lillard.
At just 27 years old, odds are this won’t be Westbrook’s last chance to compete in the Olympics, but by the time the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo roll around, the always-explosive point guard may not be the All-NBA player that he is today.