So much for roster analysis gleaned from USA Basketball’s exhibition games. Despite not playing last night in the Americans’ 112-86 win over Puerto Rico, DeMar DeRozan and Andre Drummond were among the 12 players officially named to Team USA. Gordon Hayward, Kyle Korver, Damian Lillard, and Chandler Parsons were the national program’s final cuts in advance of the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
Joining DeRozan and Drummond on Team USA are starters Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose, Steph Curry, James Harden, Klay Thompson, Rudy Gay, Kenneth Faried, Anthony Davis, Mason Plumlee, and DeMarcus Cousins.
The most surprising aspect of coach Mike Krzyzewski’s team is surely its surplus of centers. Conventional wisdom was that Plumlee, Cousins, and Drummond were competing for just two roster spots behind Davis, but the talented size of home nation and potential championship opponent Spain clearly loomed large in the selection process.
The presence of an extra big man likely came at the expense of Parsons more than Lillard, Hayward, or Korver. The Dallas Mavericks wing seemed a relatively safe bet for a roster spot after the injury to Paul George and late-stage departure of Kevin Durant due to his ability play nominal power forward and stretch the floor. Parsons’ elimination leaves Rudy Gay as the only player on Team USA built in the mold that has been a staple of Krzyzewski’s past teams.
Rose’s selection is the other big story. Many assumed that the candidacy of Rose was in doubt after the Chicago Bulls superstar sat out multiple practices and Wednesday night’s exhibition due to what he called “body fatigue.” That Irving again started in his place against Puerto Rico lent further credence to that notion. But the 2011 MVP looked sharp last night, and Krzyzewski eased concerns gleaned from Rose’s absence earlier this week in his post-game news conference.
Any doubts about Rose’s participation were squelched by Krzyzewski in his postgame news conference.
While acknowledging that “we need to see how Derrick reacts [physically]” after his 13-minute stint off the bench behind new starter Irving, Krzyzewski capped a week of coast-to-coast fretting about the court time Rose missed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday by declaring that “I feel very confident about Derrick.”
“I think Derrick feels very confident,” Krzyzewski added. “And these guys want to play with him. That’s part of getting back … to be around a group of your peers.”
Krzyzewski contends that serving as a role player for Team USA, as opposed to waiting until Bulls training camp in October to aggressively launch his comeback after two serious knee injuries, is going to be a “huge, huge help for him.”
The construction of this roster isn’t ideal, and that was somewhat inevitable given the rash of withdrawals by national program stalwarts like Durant and Kevin Love. But the truth is that it likely won’t matter. The Americans are simply that much more talented than every team in the World Cup field, and their best potential competition in the knockout phase – against Lithuania in the semifinals and Spain in the championship game – boast frontcourts that could give a smaller team fits. There’s a chance Coach K could actually need to use all four of his centers in either match-up, and the quality of the United States’ guards makes its lack of versatile swingmen less glaring.
After a month of preparation and endless speculation, Team USA’s roster is finally set. The World Cup begins on August 30. Real basketball is almost here.
What do you think?
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