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Devin Booker fouls out in Team USA’s win over Czech Republic, comments on Olympic experience

Book said he has enjoyed his time in Tokyo so far, despite Saturday’s tough performance

NBA: Finals-Milwaukee Bucks at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns shooting guard Devin Booker finished with five points, one rebound, one block and three turnovers in just under 10 minutes in Team USA’s 119-84 win over the Czech Republic in its final group play game of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Saturday morning.

Booker and the Americans finished second in Group A behind France and advanced to the quarterfinal round with their opponent to be determined on Sunday.

Booker, who had 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, five rebounds and three steals in Team USA’s 120-66 win over Iran on Tuesday, started for the second straight game with Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday, Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant and Miami Heat forward Bam Adebayo. Booker fouled out in Saturday’s game in just under 10 minutes of play, disallowing him from getting into a rhythm.

His lone made field goal in the game came with 2:45 left in the third quarter, hitting a corner 3-pointer off an assist from Bucks forward Khris Middleton. He then was fouled on a baseline drive with 1:33 left in the period and hit two free throws.

Booker has now totaled 25 points (8-of-18 FG, 1-of-5 from 3-point range, 8-of-9 from the free-throw line), eight rebounds, four assists, four steals, one block and six turnovers in the United States’ three Olympic games.

After his 16-point effort on Tuesday, Booker was made available to the international media to talk about his experience in the Olympics. Here’s what he had to say.

On arriving to Tokyo shortly before the United States’ first game and adjusting to international time:

“It was new, a new experience. But the flight was well, man. Just trying to get some sleep, for real, and adjusting to the time zone out here. But the past couple nights, I’ve got some great rest. So obviously, this game was better than the last one.

On the biggest adjustment to FIBA rules:

“I think that’s the biggest adjustment, is adjusting to the ball. If we had a couple weeks to prepare a little bit, I think we’d be a little bit more used to it. But feeling it for the first time on game day was definitely an adjustment.”

On playing in the NBA Finals shortly before getting to the Olympics:

“It’s honestly an honor to be able to represent this country and put on the uniform that many greats have worn before me and represented this country to the highest degree. But like you said, (Los Angeles Lakers forward) LeBron (James) said, the opportunity that we had a week ago will never go away. If we end up getting one down the line, you look back at the one you lost and say, ‘What could have been?’ So it’s something you got to learn from, got to build from and take in and use as motivation. It’s not going to be easy ever even get the opportunity to be there again, but it’s all part of the journey, all part of the process.”

On playing with Holiday and Middleton, who he recently competed against in the Finals:

“The memories are there, but it’s nothing personal between me and them. We lost, and that’s it. I’m man enough to accept that and move on. So there’s no hate towards Jrue or K-Mid. I said it during the series when we had this question, I have a lot of respect for those guys. When you’re competing at the highest level, it doesn’t always go your way. But I’m a forward thinker and move on to the next thing. Be able to take my L and move on.”

If he has gotten to visit Olympic Village:

“We actually stay in a hotel separate from the Olympic Village. But I heard the team, during the ceremony, got a chance to go by and visit the Village. And on social media, I’ve seen the Village and what’s going on over there. But I haven’t had the opportunity to visit there.”

On the keys to the United States’ 120-66 victory over Iran on Tuesday and his advice to players for Thursday’s 2021 NBA Draft:

“I’d say everybody was themselves tonight. Got a feel for each other and encouraged each other to go out there and play free. I think the first game, nobody wanted to step on each other’s toes and make sure everybody was involved. But everybody came in with an aggressive mindset, and it opened up a lot for each and every person. So big improvement for the first game.

“As far as draft night, for the guys coming in, it’s the biggest moment of their lives and I know it’s the biggest moment in mine. But just take it day-by-day. Understand it’s a journey, there’s going to be highs and lows, but just got to keep going. Keep improving every day and learn the game. Find some good veterans, listen to people. Listen to the right people.”

On how much the Americans study film of other teams versus evaluations of themselves:

“I think it’s a mixture of both. At the end of the day, we try to focus on what we’re doing in-house but games change, game-to-game, personnel-wise. So I think you have to have a jist and an idea of your opponent, but more focused on in on what your team’s capable of and control what you can do as a team.”

On the differences he has noticed between NBA and international basketball rules:

“One, just the rules of the game. The spacing and what I said earlier, just adjusting to the basketball. But we got two games under my belt as far as international play, so I think after a few more games, I’ll have a better answer for you.”

On playing with Lillard and other NBA All-Stars during the Olympics:

“It’s a dream come true. It’s something that I’ve studied and I’ve watched before and like I said earlier, the chance to represent your country is one of the prestigious things in basketball. So it’s been an honor to grace the court with the talent that we have out there and not just players, the coaching staff, the training staff. It’s a great experience and I’m taking it all in and I’m enjoying it. We’re having a good time with it.”

On what it would mean to win a gold medal:

“For my NBA career, I don’t think goes hand-in-hand. But personally, it’s something that everybody wants. It’s something that like I said, you’re following who came before you. So it’s a really big deal.”

On his experiences with Team USA and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and other players on the team:

“Just soaking it all in. Usually, you’re not on the same side as these guys. So any short conversation or anything they say, I’m a sponge to it. I’m listening. And not just asking all questions, just observing from the side and taking bits and pieces. It kind of reminds me of when I had the chance to do the select team three years ago, just being in the gym with these type of guys and seeing how they carry themselves and seeing how detail-oriented everybody is when it comes to this beautiful sport. So any bits and pieces I can take, that I can learn from and take back to my team when we go back, I’m trying to take advantage of that.”

On what he is doing in his spare time in Tokyo:

“I play Call of Duty, man. So I got my system out here, I’m sneaking in some good Warzone time in Verdansk with my fellas. But the time difference kind of has us all over the place, but we found time to link up with each other.”

If he watched Team USA play in Las Vegas, when it lost two exhibition games to Nigeria and Australia:

“We watched all the exhibition games as a team, more just trying to get a jist of how they were playing and what type of offense they were running and how they were guarding. I got that — I realized what they were doing, and having an opportunity — and these guys accepting to come in here and be a big piece of it. So that was exciting and a great opportunity. So we just got thrown together as a team just a few weeks ago — me a couple days ago, them a few weeks ago. And we’re playing against competition that’s been playing against each other since they were 12 years old. So it’s a new experience for us, but we’re in the gym and we’re on the pursuit to get better every day.”

If he has talked with Popovich and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green about losing in the Finals:

“We’ve talked about it in short conversation. Talked about it with Draymond and him stressing the fact, ‘It’s not going to be that easy to get back to the Finals.’ I remember us as a team saying that right in the locker room after we lost, that we got to understand it’s going to be even harder to make it to the point we were at. Just having an understanding for that, but I’m excited for it. The experience was great. I’m glad I got to do it. Obviously, ended up on the wrong side of the stick but that’s life.”

On the urgency that the Americans played with in their win over Iran:

“I think we’re figuring it out. I think the more important part was playing as ourselves, not too worried about stepping on each other’s toes and understanding that the more aggressive we are, the more opportunities that we open up for each other. So going in with the mindset of, you don’t want to step on anybody’s toes, it kind of limits your capabilities. We have a really talented team in every position. So we need everybody to be themselves, and I know there’s only one basketball out there. But when you have the right mindset to be aggressive, you cause gravity and open up easier looks for your team.”

On the fashion he has observed in Tokyo:

“I wish, man. We’re pretty much in the hotel, but Tokyo is one of the spots I’d like to come back to after COVID(-19) dies down, from the fashion aspect. I have a high level for their fashion and what they do here.”

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