Los Angeles Sparks coach Derek Fisher has ripped off USA Basketball because of his decision on Monday to leave striker Nneka Ogwumike from the US women’s Olympic basketball team, calling the six-time all-star and former MVP’s continued omission as “travesty” designated.
“Where do I start? We’re honestly pissed off,” Fisher said during a video call to media on Tuesday. “Nothing has to be ‘given’ to her. She deserved it and she deserved it. That’s the most frustrating and disappointing part. “
Fisher pointed to the fact that in July 2019, Ogwumike was named as one of eight players who pledged to train and compete in the US in 2019-20 instead of going overseas. The eight were essentially considered core players for the 2020 Olympics, although the Coronavirus pandemic has of course postponed the Summer Games for a year.
Six of these eight were appointed to the twelve-person Olympic team in 2021 on Monday. The two who weren’t referred to as Olympians were Ogwumike and Elena Delle Donne from Washington.
Although Delle Donne’s expulsion was expected for being out with back problems since the end of the 2019 WNBA season, Ogwumikes came as a surprise. She has participated in every U.S. basketball training or competitive event for the past few years, including participating in the 2014 and 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Championships which won gold medals. Delle Donne was an Olympian in 2016, but Ogwumike has never made an Olympic squad.
The core players named in 2019 had the opportunity to earn about $ 100,000 for their participation in U.S. basketball over the 2019-20 period. Fisher said this was bypassing Ogwumike’s chance to make more money overseas. Ogwumike was also MVP of a February 2020 tournament that was won by the USA.
“I don’t know what else a player should do,” said Fisher. “She’s been all-star six times in the last 10 years. She was the league MVP, a league champion, one of the faces of the league.”
US official basketball players generally do not provide details on why players were not selected. But US coach Dawn Staley, who is not on the selection committee, said on Monday that Ogwumike’s current knee injury played a big role in keeping her out of the team.
“It really breaks my heart that Nneka is not on this team,” Staley said in a video call to the media on Monday. “I mean, if we had to make a decision in a month … I’m sure it would be healthy.”
However, the announced schedule of Ogwumike’s injury would see her resume activity ahead of the Olympics. On June 3, it was announced that she had suffered a 2nd degree knee sprain and could be absent for four to six weeks.
If it was four weeks, Ogwumike could still return to the field in the first week of July, a few days before the US training camp in Las Vegas begins around July 13. The Americans’ first game in the Olympics is July 27th.
Fisher said to the best of his knowledge US officials contacted Ogwumike to inquire about her health. Ogwumike, who will turn 31 on July 2, has yet to speak publicly about her Olympic omission.
“You can try throwing the injury out there if you want; I’ll call BS about that too,” Fisher said. “The schedule doesn’t fit that she’s not available during the Olympics. We respect other players and we’re happy for those who made it. But there’s no way you can tell me you’re putting a team together and stopping Nneka . and try to say it makes sense and adds up because it doesn’t. “
With the immense strength of the US women’s team, which has won gold six times in a row and last lost in the Olympic game in 1992, there are always cuts in every Olympic cycle because the talent pool is so large. However, Ogwumike’s absence has drawn attention for several reasons.
It is the second Olympiad in a row that at least one prominent player has been removed from the roster for the Sparks. In 2016, two-time Olympian and two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker, a longtime Sparks player, now at Chicago, was not selected. It wasn’t Ogwumike who ended the season MVP either, while Parker was the 2016 WNBA Finals MVP when the Sparks won the league championship.
Parker, who was asked about her former teammate’s omission on Tuesday following Chicago’s win over New York, said she believed “politics” played a role and that she did it with her own 2016 Olympic omission, the ended her national team career.
“There are a number of players who deserve it … but how many times are we going to say it’s unfair?” Parker said, adding that she had turned to Ogwumike. “How many times are we going to say it’s not politics? I think we all know that. I was like, ‘It sucks, it’s unfair, you’re one of the big guys. You’re the only MVP that doesn’t make an Olympic team. ” ‘They’re cops —.’ But that’s it, isn’t it? That’s why I’m commenting in Tokyo. “
Parker will be part of the NBC broadcast team for the Summer Games.
Ogwumike was not considered for her MVP performance in 2016 as the Olympic team was selected in late April 2016, before the WNBA season began. That said, she had a strong 2015 season in which she was an all-star and on the WNBA’s all-defensive team.
The 2016 Olympic Team Elections took place two months earlier than this year, although the Rio Games took place two weeks later in the year than the Tokyo Games. The reason for this was because USA Basketball was encouraged to name its 2016 team 100 days before the Rio Olympics in order to maximize media exposure.
Ogwumike also failed to make the 2012 Olympic team, which was also selected in April. She was Stanford’s No. 1 Draft Pick and WNBA Rookie of the Year in 2012. Team USA brought Diana Taurasi (2004), Parker (2008) and Breanna Stewart (2016) to the Olympics in their rookie seasons, when they were No. 1 chooses.
Ogwumike was one of the most prominent WNBA figures off the field for her role as president of the players’ union executive committee. In 2020, she was instrumental in helping the union and league reach a new collective agreement and get players to live and compete in the Bradenton, Florida bubble due to the pandemic.
Ogwumike’s failure to do so resulted in multiple reprimands online, including from her sister and Sparks teammate Chiney Ogwumike; former Stanford teammate and basketball analyst Ros Gold-Onwude; and former WNBA player Devereaux Peters, who competed collegially in Notre Dame and criticized US basketball and the selection process.
The committee that selects the Olympic team consists of five members: U.S. Women’s National Team Director Carol Callan, former Olympian and current Minnesota Lynx assistant Katie Smith, WNBA league director Bethany Donaphin, Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller and UConn coach Geno Auriemma, who coached the 2012 and 2016 Olympic teams.
After Tuesday’s Sun game, Miller was asked about the Olympic team decision-making process. He said Callan should be the spokesperson for the selection committee on this year’s team composition. A USA Basketball spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday that, as a guideline, Callan does not provide details about players who were not selected, but did not disagree with Staley’s assessment that Ogwumike’s current injury was a big factor.
Miller added, “Ultimately you try to put together the best team you can for the coaching staff to be successful. Every coaching staff is a little different every four years … their desires, how to put a team together, and” what their preferences are. They try as a committee to understand the philosophical beliefs of this coaching staff.
“It’s really, really difficult with some injuries and trying to put together the best squad.”
Ogwumike will be 34 at the next Olympics, which means this could be her last chance to get into the roster. However, there are three players on the team this year who are 35 or older: Seattle’s Sue Bird (40), Phoenix’s Taurasi (39) and Minnesota’s Sylvia Fowles (35). However, none of them are new to the Olympics.
Fisher was asked how he thought Ogwumike would deal with this disappointment.
“I think it’s going to be tough because she’s always being asked to grab it by the chin and take the high road,” he said of her previous failures with the Olympic team. “To be the one who leads by example and does whatever everyone wants her to do, and sacrifices her mental and physical well-being all the time for everyone else – for the reward of being overlooked by the same group of people again, for the most part.
“What makes her unique and really special is that she has that inner strength and strength. I think she will keep doing her business as she always does and continue to be a professional. [But] Thinking about what Nneka means, has achieved, and will do to the league, and thinking that she could get on with her career and never play for Team USA in the Olympics is a bloody travesty. “