Mike Krzyzewski picked the official roster, and now he gets to test-drive it one more time before it starts to count.
Team USA will take on Slovenia in its final exhibition contest before the 2014 FIBA World Cup begins Aug. 30. Here is a look at the schedule and broadcast information for that game.
|Tuesday, August 26||Gran Canaria Arena; Gran Canaria, Spain||2 p.m.||ESPN2|
The biggest storyline heading into this matchup is the fact that it will be the first game with the official roster set for the red, white and blue. After a trying practice period that saw superstars Kevin Love and Kevin Durant pull out and Paul George break his leg, it’s finally time to focus on the competition.
Here is a look, courtesy of SportsCenter, at the official 12-man roster Krzyzewski is taking to battle:
USA Basketball World Cup Roster announced: Rose, Curry, Irving, Thompson, DeRozan, Harden, Faried, Cousins, Davis, Gay, Drummond, Plumlee.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 23, 2014
That means no Damian Lillard, Chandler Parsons, Kyle Korver or Gordon Hayward, even though they all were part of the team for the early exhibition contests.
One thing in particular to keep an eye on during Tuesday’s game is the performance of the big men. Coach K kept Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Kenneth Faried, Mason Plumlee and Andre Drummond, which may seem like a lot of bodies for one or two positions. However, this tournament may ultimately come down to beating Spain.
Spain counters with Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, so the interior players will be critical on both ends.
Those five cleared the first hurdle by making the team, but we are talking about some of the top players in the NBA. They would all prefer to be on the floor for extended minutes during the World Cup. How well they perform—and how the minutes are dispersed—could provide some insight into the interior rotation once the World Cup begins.
While the big men will be of interest, stopping Goran Dragic on the perimeter will be key against Slovenia.
The Phoenix Suns guard is coming off a season in which he averaged more than 20 points a night, won the NBA's Most Improved Player award and narrowly missed leading his squad into the postseason. His younger brother, Zoran Dragic, is on the roster as well, but Slovenia doesn’t feature any other NBA players.
The USA will counter with a combination of Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and Derrick Rose. Irving will start, but look for all three to pressure Dragic with fresh legs as Krzyzewski spreads the minutes fairly evenly.
Much like the performance of the big men could be an indicator of what’s to come during the World Cup, Irving getting the starting nod over Rose could provide some insight as well.
Krzyzewski discussed that topic with Marc Stein of ESPN.com: “We’ll see as things go on. We might alternate ’em. Both of them are going to play significant minutes.”
Fran Fraschilla of ESPN talked about Irving's role in the squad (Insider subscription required):
Irving has embraced his role as an attacking facilitator in this offense. He looks to be enjoying being surrounded by so much offensive talent. As important, his relentless on-ball pressure sets the tone for Team USA's defense.
Remember, the United States will have five games in six days during the early stages of the World Cup, and Rose is certainly a health risk. He sat out an exhibition game against the Dominican Republic with knee soreness and is clearly working his way back to 100 percent.
Splitting time with Irving during the World Cup and exhibition games is probably the best thing for Rose’s long-term outlook (and the sanity of worried Chicago Bulls fans). It will also keep the guards fresher as they try to contain Dragic on Tuesday.
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