Derrick Rose sat out Team USA's 105-62 exhibition win over Dominican Republic on Wednesday in New York, just as he skipped practice the previous two days because of soreness in his knee.
No big deal, Rose said. He plans to play in the next game on Friday against Puerto Rico, also at Madison Square Garden.
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"Just trying to protect myself, just knowing that this is a long, long schedule and this is the most basketball I'll be playing in two years," Rose told reporters after the contest. "So I'm just going in, trying to gear up, making sure that I'm healthy."
But USA Basketball needs to trim four players before the FIBA World Cup begins on Aug. 30, so Rose's continued participation could be in question.
"He's feeling a lot better," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, a Team USA assistant. "He was probably feeling good enough to play tonight, but because he hasn't played and he's trying to shake off some rust, the best thing to do was to give him the day off."
Rose played 24 minutes last Friday in Chicago during an exhibition win over Brazil. He's played in only 10 games during the past two NBA seasons, thanks to two knee injuries, so extra rest was probably routine procedure.
Rose figures to have plenty of support within USA Basketball, with Thibodeau on the coaching staff and Chicago native Mike Krzyzewski running the show. The Bulls are hoping this experience will help prepare Rose for a successful comeback.
When the real competition begins on Aug. 30, the U.S. will play five games in six days during pool play.
Rose's durability could be a concern and that schedule may sound rigorous, but remember that the opponents are Finland, Turkey, New Zealand, Dominican Republic and Ukraine. The majority of those games, if not all of them, should be lopsided. The challenges will come during the four playoff rounds, with host Spain considered the strongest competition.
Setting Rose aside for a moment, these guys are shaping up as key players for the U.S. -- Anthony Davis, James Harden, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving and Kenneth Faried.
One big man will probably depart between DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond and Mason Plumlee. There was a perception Plumlee, who played for Krzyzewski at Duke, was a favorite to make the final roster, but Drummond made his case Wednesday by scoring 12 points in 16 minutes. Cousins played 16 minutes after suffering a knee injury in practice last week.
The U.S. will likely drop a couple of wing players, where they have some depth. Kyle Korver and Gordon Hayward appear to be on the bubble, with DeMar DeRozan and Chandler Parsons in better shape. Late addition Rudy Gay was one of the first players off the bench in Chicago last week and led Team USA on Wednesday with 13 points, same as DeRozan.
If Team USA decides to keep just two point guards, then either Rose or Portland's Damian Lillard will likely stay home. Lillard had 7 points, 3 assists and 4 turnovers in Wednesday's game. Krzyzewski said no roster changes will be made before Friday's exhibition.
USA Basketball president Jerry Colangelo was asked about Rose's status during the game broadcast on NBATV.
"I was cautiously optimistic. I think for him being down as long as he was, for him to come back and be where he is is good," Colangelo said. "It's still early to really know. He needs to rest more than anything and I think he's going to be all right."
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