Despite the pleas of the fans, Derrick Rose remained on the bench while his teammates led Team USA to a 105-62 win over the Dominican Republic, sitting out due to soreness in his knees. It didn’t bother Kyrie Irving and James Harden to handle the challenge with ease, while Klay Thompson, DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond and Rudy Gay made a strong case for their inclusion in the final roster that goes to the basketball World Cup.
Despite never getting out of his warmup uniform, Rose was the most interesting man in the Madison Square Garden. Yes, in New York, a city that has a nice little rivalry when it comes to basketball and Chicago, fans were changing from time to time for Rose to hit the floor. However, fatigue and taking care of his aching knees after a training camp in which he has looked very impressive kept him on the bench.
There was never any need for him to get in. In the long run as well for this international side, Rose doesn’t need to be special. He just needs to be good for some minutes and run well with the team. Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Stephen Curry, reportedly 100% in the team no matter the rest of the cuts, can handle the backcourt quite well, not to mention someone like Klay Thompson who improved his chances of making the cut.
The Dominican Republic, without Al Horford, didn’t really stand a chance of giving them any trouble. This probably isn’t the kind of quality Team USA will encounter in Spain, where they will face the same team, Turkey, Finland, New Zealand and the Ukraine in the group stage – not exactly a difficult road to the round of 16 with four teams qualifying from each group. Spain got France, Brazil and Serbia in their group; Argentina, Greece and Croatia are together; Group D has Lithuania and Slovenia.
The lineup included the other five players who won’t have a problem making it into the 12-man roster: Kenneth Faried, Anthony Davis, Harden, Curry and Irving. Irving was perfect in his 16 minutes with 12 points and 5 assists while James Harden scored 12 as well with four assists and three steals, once again showing his improved defense, with the international challenge making him play differently compared to his NBA form.
Off the bench, Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan led the team with 13 points each, Andre Drummond scored 12 and Klay Thompson with two 3-pointers added 11. The only player who didn’t seem to blend in well was Damian Lillard, who did score 7 points but on 3-of-8 from the field and looked quite lost and slow to react on defense, which makes him a very likely possibility to get cut eventually.
So who makes it? Except for the six we mentioned, it seems like Klay Thompson is getting close to securing his spot. Andre Drummond made a big case for his backup center spot, which leaves us four players left to choose from. Kyle Korver, Gordon Hayward, Damian Lillard and another player – maybe Chandler Parsons, seem like the least likely to be chosen, although there’s one more game against Puerto Rico to finally determine who plays for the title in Spain.