Adam Silver would have liked seeing Caitlin Clark on the US Olympic team, understands decision

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Iowa's Caitlin Clark celebrates after an NCAA Women's Final Four semifinals basketball game against South CarolinaFriday, March 31, 2023, in Dallas. Iowa won 77-73 to advance to the championship on Sunday. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

DALLAS (AP) — As a basketball fan, Adam Silver would have loved to have seen Caitlin Clark on the U.S. Olympic women’s team for this summer’s Paris Games.

As NBA Commissioner, he understands why it didn’t happen.

Clark was not selected for the team that was announced by USA Basketball earlier this week, a decision that has sparked conversations within the game. The rookie for the WNBA’s Indiana Fever has been perhaps the most scrutinized player in the league this season, and Silver has said he’s rooting for her.

“From my standpoint — and I’m independent from USA Basketball, somebody whose job is to oversee the NBA and ultimately the WNBA — I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed, but it would have been nice to see her on the floor,” Silver said Thursday. “There’s no question that she’s one of the most popular players at this point in the world. The ratings demonstrate that.”

That was Silver, the fan, talking. Silver, the basketball executive, understood the mandate USA Basketball had — come up with 12 women that would have the best chance of winning yet another Olympic gold medal.

“My mandate is a bit different than USA Basketball’s,” Silver said. “My job is to get more people to watch and love basketball. USA Basketball has a very specific mandate about fielding the best possible team from a competitive standpoint, and I accept that they all did their jobs the way they were instructed to.”

Through her first 13 WNBA games, Clark — the league’s rookie of the month for May — is averaging 16.3 points, 6.0 assists and 4.9 rebounds. She’s one of two players with at least those averages entering Thursday; Las Vegas’ Jackie Young is at 16.9 points, 6.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds.

Silver said he’s certain Clark is “going to have a great career ahead of her.”

“I’m sure there’ll be lots of opportunities for her to represent our country,” Silver said.

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TIM REYNOLDS