After a set of practices that saw multiple injuries and a superstar drop out, the United States basketball team finally gets to test its mettle against FIBA World Cup competition when it takes on Brazil Saturday.
Here is a look at the schedule and television information for the contest:
|Saturday, Aug. 16||9 p.m. ET||United Center, Chicago||ESPN|
Unfortunately, roster attrition has been the dominant theme leading up to the World Cup for the red, white and blue. Paul George broke his leg, DeMarcus Cousins banged up his knee and Kevin Durant elected to withdraw from the competition.
Cousins’ injury is nowhere near as serious as George’s, but SportsCenter noted that he won’t play against Brazil:
THIS JUST IN: DeMarcus Cousins will not play vs. Brazil after leaving USA Basketball practice with apparent right leg injury.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 14, 2014
Even with the loss of George, Cousins and Durant, there is still plenty of superstar talent on this roster. Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk pointed out what the starting lineup will look like:
Report: Rose, Curry, Harden, Davis four of five Team USA starters vs. Brazil http://t.co/0DN5SF5Mz9— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) August 15, 2014
The first name that jumps out of that group is Derrick Rose, especially since the exhibition takes place in the United Center.
It will be his first time playing in the Chicago Bulls’ home stadium since November, and all eyes will surely be on the point guard as he bounces back from his second-straight season-ending knee injury.
Kyle Korver, who played on Rose’s Bulls squad from 2010 to 2012, commented on Rose’s status, via Jeremy Woo of SI.com:
I think anytime you feel strong, you play strong. It’s a mental thing, [thinking] ‘I feel big and strong in this lane, no one’s gonna get my shot.’ You take your time a little more, you shoot it with a little more confidence, and I sense that in Derrick. He just feels like he’s in beast mode out there.
The fact that this is an exhibition won’t matter for Rose, especially if he truly is in “beast mode” right now.
Rose will look to put on a show in front of his hometown fans and perhaps establish some self-confidence going forward. He will be aggressive from the opening tip and lead Team USA throughout the game.
Rose is only one part of a loaded guard rotation. Stephen Curry, James Harden and Kyrie Irving will see plenty of playing time, especially since Durant is no longer around.
Team USA needs its guards to score, which shouldn’t be a problem given Rose’s explosiveness, Curry’s shooting and Harden’s overall offensive ability.
If Mike Krzyzewski uses a three-guard lineup with Rose, Curry and Harden, Irving will likely be the first one off the bench. He seamlessly fits into a rotation that will be dominated by the backcourt, and he will push the tempo with his athleticism and ball-handling skills.
The issue, especially against Brazil, could be the interior game.
Brazil’s official roster on its FIBA website has some low-post players who NBA fans will probably recognize. Nene Hilario, Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter will give Team USA fits, and Cousins won’t be there to help on the boards.
That means Andre Drummond and Mason Plumlee will be asked to play heavy minutes behind Anthony Davis. Elsewhere, Gordon Hayward or Chandler Parsons could see time as a stretch power forward, but neither is a dominant rebounder.
What’s more, Woo of SI.com noted that fans shouldn’t expect too much out of Kenneth Faried:
Although he’s been highly productive for the Nuggets, Kenneth Faried looked a little out of place playing in the national team environment from what we got to see Thursday. He doesn’t have a clearly defined role, since he’s undersized as a center and lacks the perimeter skills to really fit the international game as a power forward. It’s not clear how he’d fit here except as a change-of-pace guy, and with Gay and Davis able to man the four with Hayward or Parsons and Plumlee and/or Drummond available on the bench, he looks like one of the odd men out.
Brazil’s size will cause some problems for the Americans on the boards. Nene, Splitter and Varejao are all nearly 7 feet tall and have plenty of international experience.
However, the offensive firepower Team USA brings to the table from the perimeter will simply be too much. The crowd will be fired up to see Rose, and the team will play off that energy and dominate the second half.
The only thing at stake in the final minutes of this one will be roster spots.
Prediction: United States 101, Brazil 75
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