NEW YORK — Team USA put together a sharp second half to pull away from Puerto Rico and comfortably cruise to a 112-86 victory in its final stateside exhibition, before heading to Spain in advance of the FIBA World Cup which is set to begin on Aug. 30.
There were some fine overall performances, most notably by Stephen Curry (20 points on 6-of-7 shooting) and Kenneth Faried (12 points on 6-of-6 shooting, five rebounds, two blocked shots in just over 12 minutes of action). But they were locks to make the final 12-man roster all along.
With final cuts looming and likely to come officially by Saturday morning, this exhibition was about looking at the players who were questionable. And a couple of interesting names, though unlikely to ultimately be cut, worked their way into the conversation by way of below-average performances.
Let’s start with what appears to be likely, which is that the four players who received DNP-CDs in this one — Andre Drummond, DeMar DeRozan, Gordon Hayward, and Damian Lillard — could have been a way of Krzyzewski foreshadowing what many believed would be happening all along.
But Drummond and DeRozan played well when they got their chance on Wednesday, so there’s at least a possibility that one or both could remain on the roster, especially with the team seeming to valuing size and scoring ability above all else.
Two guys that should make the team didn’t do much to impress against Puerto Rico, but that doesn’t mean that they’re now automatically candidates to be cut. DeMarcus Cousins was underwhelming defensively, and missed some easy buckets inside. It was a relatively rough outing from him, despite finishing with eight points on 4-of-7 shooting, to go along with four rebounds (and four personal fouls) in just over 12 minutes of action. It appears as though the USA brain trust is waiting to see the best of what Cousins has to offer, but he has yet to show it in any of these games this summer.
And then, there’s Derrick Rose.
Rose started in the Chicago exhibition, and though his performance was uneven, he did put up a couple of signature highlights. He sat out of Wednesday’s contest and the practices leading up to it due to knee soreness, and came off the bench in this one, with Coach K opting to give Kyrie Irving the start at the point instead.
Rose made some nice passes and attempted to apply pressure on the perimeter defensively, but he has yet to show an ability to impact these games the way most were expecting. Rose finished with six points and four assists in just over 13 minutes of action off the bench, and though it’s unlikely he’d be cut due to this recent turn of events, it’s a definite possibility that Irving’s strong play may have placed him ahead of Rose on the depth chart at this stage of the proceedings.
We shouldn’t have to wait very long to hear who made it and who did not, and there will undoubtedly be those who second guess the decisions — which is something that Krzyzewski knows is just how this works.
“Like in anything, whatever we decide, we’ll be questioned,” he said, when asked about final cuts earlier this week.