Phoenix Suns star guard Devin Booker said Wednesday he still plans to play for Team USA in the Olympics despite the quick turnaround between the possible end of the NBA Finals and the opening of the Tokyo basketball tournament.
“It’s the next thing smoking. I’ll be there,” Booker said during an off-day media conference at Phoenix Suns Arena between Game 1’s 118-105 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks Tuesday night and Game 2 Thursday evening.
The logistics are harrowing. If the current series extends to a Game 7 at home for the Suns on July 23, there would be only two days before the U.S. opens the preliminary round against France in Tokyo on July 25. The gold medal game is slated for Aug. 6.
Team USA, which includes the likes of Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Damian Lillard and Jayson Tatum, has already gathered in Las Vegas for a few weeks of practice and exhibition games under San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. Booker is on the roster, as are Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday of the Milwaukee Bucks.
The team is planning to leave for Tokyo on July 19, Jerry Colangelo, the team’s managing director, told Sportico last month. Considering the 12-hour flight time between Phoenix and Tokyo, plus crossing the international date line, it won’t give Booker too much time to catch his breath.
“I’ll be there, but it’s obviously not my main focus right now,” said Booker, one of his team’s most prolific scorers throughout the playoffs. “I’ve reached out to coach Pop, I’ve reached out to Colangelo recently and told them [my plans]. I see all the guys have reported to Vegas. The only other place I’d want to be is the Finals. But I would love to be there with the guys, and I’ll be there soon.”
Booker is trying to help win the first NBA title in Suns history, but he added that one of his goals has been to play in the Olympics. The 14th overall pick by the Suns in the first round of the 2015 Draft, he’s 24 and finishing his sixth NBA season. He’s under contract with the Suns for three more years. The entire four-year package is worth $130.8 million.
“It’s very important,” he said about playing in the Olympics. “It’s a life goal of mine. I think it’s the most prestigious event that basketball can find. So to be a part of representing your country, I think, brings you to a whole other stratosphere. Just thinking about the guys who came before us and represented our country, I don’t think there’s anything better than winning a gold medal.”