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Rose making a statement with USA Basketball
Coach K impressed by Bulls star and excited about a talented group with the right mindset as it moves forward
By Adam Fluck | 08.05.2014
As USA Basketball training camp got underway in Las Vegas last week, no one knew exactly what to expect from Derrick Rose in his return to action.
Perhaps except for Rose himself. According to USA National Team head coach Mike Krzyzewski, Rose was determined to make a statement early. And he did just that.
“There was a buzz right away,” Krzyzewski said on a conference call Tuesday afternoon. “He was basically saying, ‘Look, I’m not just back. I’m back at a level that’s elite.’ Being with the other elite guards helps you. And Derrick maintained that the entire week. We could not be happier about that particular situation.”
Next up for Rose and the other 15 finalists for the 2014 USA Basketball Men's World Cup Team roster is a stop in Chicago, where the team will train late next week before hosting Brazil in an exhibition game at the United Center on Aug. 16. In Brazil, USA will go up against “one of the favorites, one of the really strong teams in the World Cup,” according to Krzyzewski.
But first, USA Basketball must continue to adjust to the loss of Paul George. The Indiana Pacers star suffered a right leg, open tibia-fibula fracture during Friday’s showcase in Las Vegas, an injury which will likely cause him to miss the entire 2014-15 NBA season.
Krzyzewski acknowledged that George likely would have been a started for this year’s national team, citing his versatility to play either at small forward or power forward and calling him “one of the great defensive players in the league.”
Though George’s injury was a devastating blow to all involved, Krzyzewski is confident the group will be able to regain its intensity.
“I don’t think they’ll need motivation,” said Krzyzewski of his team. “I think they’ll be ready and they’ll want to do something to honor Paul. I think they’ll be ready to go. The reactions I’ve gotten from players is that they’re anxious to get going. Obviously they feel very, very badly about Paul. He’s part of our group, he’s part of our brotherhood.”
Without George, the team will possess a smaller group of perimeter players, thus Krzyzewski is looking for versatility from a talented group of guards that includes Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard in addition to Rose.
“Certainly we’re heavy with outstanding talent at the guard spot, the 1 and the 2,” Krzyzewski stated. “So guys have to be ready to play both. We’re not going to be able to keep all the guys.”
As USA Basketball works towards a final roster of 12 players, Krzyzewski explained that a core of “seven to nine” players will be formed, similar to its last three competitions. The additional three to four players who will round out the team will be selected on how well they fit in and complement that core.
Krzyzewski also noted that only three players – Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Chris Paul—averaged over 20 minutes per game in the 2012 Summer Olympics. He foresees a similar distribution of playing time this summer.
For now, though, Krzyzewski hopes to build on what was a successful first week prior to the George injury.
“I thought the week was outstanding and the effort was terrific,” said Krzyzewski. “We actually practiced harder I think than we have in any of the three previous camps. Although we went hard then, but not as hard as this week. The camaraderie that we saw develop amongst the players was outstanding. So we’re looking forward to Chicago.”
Rose in particular will certainly receive a warm welcome when he steps back on the court in his home arena. After an impressive showing in Friday’s showcase in which he scored on three athletic plays early—two fast break layups in which he sped by opposing defenders and a two-handed dunk that illustrated his explosiveness was back—Krzyzewski praised Rose for his performance over the five-day period.
“Derrick was sensational the whole week,” said Krzyzewski. “He really did that every day with how fast and strong and decisive he was. He really created an air of excitement for the team. We all were anxious to see who he was right now. And who he is is very, very good. We’re ecstatic about it and so happy for him.
“It takes an exceptional person which is why we’re talking about Derrick,” Krzyzewski later added of how far Rose has come. “I think he’s exceptional in every way. He went right at it. The first defensive exchange in the camp, he was all over the ball-handler, moving his feet, attacking him.”
As far as coming home, Rose is hardly the only member of the USA Basketball family with ties to Chicago.
“We’ll be playing about a mile and a half from where I grew up,” Krzyzewski. “What an honor for me to bring the USA Team and be able to coach it in the United Center. It’s a homecoming for Anthony Davis and also Derrick Rose in addition to [USA Men's National Team managing director] Jerry [Colangelo]. Chicago is our town.”