Los Angeles Sparks coach Derek Fisher ripped USA Basketball for its choice Monday to depart ahead Nneka Ogwumike off the U.S. ladies’s basketball Olympic squad, calling the continuing omission of the six-time All-Star and former MVP a “travesty.”
“The place do I begin? We’re pissed, truthfully,” Fisher mentioned throughout a Tuesday video name with media. “Nothing needs to be ‘given’ to her. She earned it and she or he deserves it. That is probably the most irritating and disappointing half.”
Fisher referenced the truth that in July 2019, Ogwumike was named as one in all eight gamers who dedicated to take part in USA Basketball coaching and competitors in 2019-20 slightly than go abroad. The eight have been basically thought of core gamers for the 2020 Olympics, though the Summer season Video games, after all, have been postponed a 12 months by the coronavirus pandemic.
Six of these eight have been named to the 12-member 2021 Olympic workforce Monday. The 2 who weren’t named Olympians have been Ogwumike and Washington’s Elena Delle Donne.
Though Delle Donne’s exclusion was anticipated as a result of she has been out for the reason that finish of the 2019 WNBA season with again points, Ogwumike’s was a shock. She has taken half in each USA Basketball coaching or competitors occasion over the previous a number of years, together with being on the 2014 and 2018 FIBA Ladies’s Basketball World Cup groups that gained gold medals. Delle Donne was a 2016 Olympian, however Ogwumike has by no means made an Olympic squad.
The core gamers named in 2019 had the chance to earn about $100,000 for his or her USA Basketball participation in the course of the 2019-20 interval. Fisher mentioned by doing that, Ogwumike bypassed the possibility to earn extra money enjoying abroad. Ogwumike was additionally the MVP of a February 2020 event gained by the USA.
“I do not know what else a participant is meant to do,” Fisher mentioned. “She’s been an All-Star six occasions within the final 10 years. She’s been MVP of the league, a champion within the league, one of many faces of the league.”
USA Basketball officers usually don’t make particulars public on why gamers weren’t chosen. However U.S. coach Daybreak Staley, who shouldn’t be on the choice committee, indicated Monday that Ogwumike’s present knee harm performed a big function in her not making the workforce.
“It actually breaks my coronary heart that Nneka shouldn’t be on this workforce,” Staley mentioned Monday in a video name with media. “I imply, if we needed to decide a month from now … I am certain she can be wholesome.”
Nevertheless, the introduced timeline of Ogwumike’s harm would have her returning to motion earlier than the Olympics. It was introduced on June 3 that she had suffered a Grade 2 knee sprain and may very well be out 4 to 6 weeks.
If it was 4 weeks, that might nonetheless get Ogwumike again on courtroom the primary week of July, a number of days earlier than USA coaching camp begins in Las Vegas round July 13. The People’ first recreation on the Olympics is July 27.
Fisher mentioned to his information, USA officers had been in touch with Ogwumike to get updates on her well being. Ogwumike, who turns 31 on July 2, has but to talk publicly about her Olympic omission.
“You possibly can attempt to throw the harm on the market if you wish to; I am calling BS on that, too,” Fisher mentioned. “The timeline does not add up for her being unavailable to play in the course of the Olympics. We respect different gamers, joyful for those that made it. However no manner you’ll be able to inform me you set a workforce collectively and depart Nneka off of it, and attempt to say it is smart and provides up, as a result of it does not.”
With the immense energy of the U.S. ladies’s workforce, which has gained six consecutive gold medals and final misplaced in Olympic play in 1992, there are at all times snubs each Olympic cycle as a result of the expertise pool is so large. Ogwumike being left off has drawn consideration, although, for a number of causes.
It is the second consecutive Olympics through which at the very least one distinguished participant for the Sparks was left off the roster. In 2016, two-time Olympian and two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker, a longtime Sparks participant now with Chicago, was not chosen. Neither was Ogwumike, who ended up being the season MVP whereas Parker was WNBA Finals MVP in 2016 because the Sparks gained the league championship.
Ogwumike did not get consideration for her MVP efficiency that 12 months as a result of the Olympic workforce was chosen in late April 2016, earlier than the WNBA season began. That mentioned, she was coming off a robust 2015 season through which she was an All-Star and on the WNBA’s all-defensive workforce.
The 2016 Olympic workforce election was two months sooner than this 12 months, although the Rio Video games have been held two weeks later within the 12 months than the Tokyo Video games shall be. The rationale was USA Basketball was inspired to call its 2016 workforce 100 days out from the Rio Olympics to maximise media publicity.
Ogwumike additionally did not make the 2012 Olympic workforce, which additionally was picked in April. She was the No. 1 draft pick of Stanford and WNBA Rookie of the Yr in 2012. Crew USA took Diana Taurasi (2004), Parker (2008) and Breanna Stewart (2016) to the Olympics of their rookie seasons after they have been No. 1 picks.
Ogwumike has been probably the most distinguished WNBA figures off the courtroom for her function as president of the manager committee for the gamers union. In 2020, she was instrumental in serving to the union and league attain a brand new collective bargaining settlement and getting the gamers to comply with dwell and compete within the bubble in Bradenton, Florida, due to the pandemic.
Ogwumike’s omission drew a number of rebukes on-line, together with from her sister and Sparks teammate, Chiney Ogwumike; former Stanford teammate and basketball analyst Ros Gold-Onwude; and former WNBA participant Devereaux Peters, who competed collegiately at Notre Dame and criticized USA Basketball and the choice course of.
The committee that selects the Olympic workforce is made up of 5 members: USA ladies’s nationwide workforce director Carol Callan, former Olympian and present Minnesota Lynx assistant Katie Smith, WNBA head of league operations Bethany Donaphin, Connecticut Solar coach Curt Miller and UConn coach Geno Auriemma, who coached the 2012 and 2016 Olympic groups.
Ogwumike shall be 34 when the subsequent Olympics roll round, which means this is perhaps her remaining probability to make the squad. There are, nonetheless, three gamers on the workforce this 12 months who’re 35 or older: Seattle’s Sue Chook (40), Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi (39) and Minnesota’s Sylvia Fowles (35). None of them is an Olympic first-timer, although.
Fisher was requested how he thinks Ogwumike will cope with this disappointment.
“I believe it is going to be powerful, as a result of she’s at all times requested to be the one to take it on the chin and take the excessive street,” he mentioned of her previous omissions from the Olympic workforce. “To be the one which leads by instance and does the whole lot everyone asks her to do and sacrifices her psychological and bodily well-being for everyone else on a regular basis — for the reward to be getting seemed over, once more, by the identical group of individuals for probably the most half.
“What makes her distinctive and actually particular is she does have that inside energy and fortitude. I believe she’s going to proceed to go about her enterprise the best way she at all times does and proceed to be an expert. [But] to consider what Nneka means to the league, has achieved and can proceed to perform, and to assume that she would possibly undergo her profession and by no means play for Crew USA within the Olympics is a freaking travesty.”