Booker looking at quick turn from NBA Finals to Olympics
PHOENIX – Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker won’t be done with basketball after the NBA Finals, with plans to join the US Olympic team after the championship showdown against Milwaukee.
The 24-year-old guard, a two-time NBA All-Star, will be joined by Bucks’ rivals Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton on the 12-man US roster that is set to play its first game in Tokyo on July 25.
If the NBA Finals reach the maximum seven games, they would finish on July 22, barely time to celebrate, catch a plane and reach Japan to meet coch Gregg Popovich and his American teammates before the opening Olympic tip off.
“I’ll be there,” Booker said. “But obviously not my main focus right now.
“I saw all the guys reported to Vegas and only other place I would rather be is the Finals, but I would love to be there with the guys and I’ll be there soon.”
Booker treasures the opportunity to help deliver the United States a fourth consecutive gold medal.
“Very important. Life goal of mine,” he said. “It’s the most prestigious event that basketball can find. So to be a part of representing your country brings you to a whole ‘nother stratosphere.
“Just thinking of the guys that have come before us and represented our country and I don’t think there’s anything better than winning a gold medal.”
But Booker wouldn’t complain about the chance for an NBA-Olympic double title despite the short turnaround.
Middleton made his own global basketball investment three months ago, joining the ownership group of the Brisbane Bullets of Australia’s National Basketball League.
“It’s something that I was excited about,” Middleton said. “Being a part of an ownership group is something I wanted to do, for sure.
“As a player it could be tough but I realize the responsibilities I had wasn’t going to really affect my basketball career right now, but it’s something I think a lot of players are starting to trend towards, finding ways to invest their money and it’s something I’m interested in.”
Middleton has visited Australia to check out his investment and see the support Aussies have for basketball.
“The sport for sure is definitely growing over there in Australia,” he said. “I’ve been there a couple times and just seeing their fan base, how much it’s growing and how much they’re passionate about the sport, I thought it was just an all-in-all win for myself.”
The tightest global ties to the NBA Finals are seven international players on the rosters.
The Bucks boast Greek forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, his brother Thanasis, Guinea’s Mamadi Diakite and Frenchman Axel Toupane.
The Suns’ lineup includes Bahamas center Deandre Ayton, Egypt’s Abdel Nader and Croatia’s Dario Saric, who suffered a torn right knee ligament in game one that will sideline him for the rest of the series.
Giannis big on Africa
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 20 points and 17 rebounds in game one, making his comeback from a hyperextended left knee after missing two games.
He’s also among seven players in the finals of Nigerian heritage, his parents having moved from Lagos to Athens three years before he was born.
“Throughout the year, I’ve had the opportunity to notice that there was a lot of African players,” said Antetokounmpo. “There were a lot of Nigerian players also playing with teams. It just speaks for itself how much talent that can come from Africa.”
Antetokounmpo saw for himself at a Basketball Without Borders event in Africa.
“I had the opportunity to go there six years ago with my family and see for myself,” he said. “I was able to coach those young kids — they were my age, but they were kids and they had so much talent.
“So hopefully moving forward we can see more kids from Africa join the NBA.”
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