Previous ArticlesUSA Basketball off to a rosy beginning
Derrick’s excellent adventure continues
by Sam Smith
Posted on Jul 29
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Media members were only allowed in for the last half hour of USA Basketball scrimmages Tuesday in Las Vegas. I watched carefully, and Derrick Rose did appear fast, though not faster than a speeding bullet. He was powerful, though not more so than a speeding locomotive and Rose’s jumping ability seemed untainted, though not quite ready to leap a tall building in a single bound.
But, man, he was super.
“He was phenomenal yesterday and he was today, too,” said USA Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. “He hasn’t held anything back. The neat thing about today was that we went hard yesterday and we went hard today. And he hasn’t been in this environment and he was as good or better today. He has gone after people. That ain’t happening (that Rose is holding back attacking the basket and defenders). He has gone after everybody and he’s really gone hard. His movement on defense is spectacular. When we started practice yesterday, what he did defensively was like, ‘Whoa.’ It picked everybody up. He is stronger and has better balance. And he’s shooting the ball great. I think he’s been absolutely terrific these first two days. Nothing that he does will ever surprise me. Look, he is one of the elite players and he’s a fabulous kid. Not a good kid, a fabulous young man and team player.”
Pretty tough to leave the kid off the team after that.
The final USA roster of 12 for the Basketball World Cup will be disclosed in late August after this week’s training camp and then exhibition games in Chicago and New York City. But less the roster, for the Bulls — and for Rose though he dismisses such speculation and uncertainty — was whether after serious knee injuries sidelined him most of two years if Rose could perform once again at a high level.
Following two days of USA scrimmages and practices, that question is getting answered. This isn’t Clark Kent anymore.
I spoke with two general managers who were here because players on their teams are among those in the tryouts and on the select team scrimmaging against the U.S. players. They agreed Rose looked probably the best of anyone, though they obviously did not want their players knowing that. Krzyzewski did acknowledge Kevin Durant has not shot well. Durant is something of the senior leader of the team given his 2012 Olympic gold medal when he set the all-time U.S. Olympic scoring record.
Otherwise, it’s a fairly young team with veterans like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony not participating this time and others like Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and LaMarcus Aldridge withdrawing. DeMarcus Cousins thus got an invite to try out, and he’s still yelling at officials even in the scrimmages. Rose is probably the most senior USA player given he was a starter for the 2010 USA Basketball World Championship gold medal winning team and thus one of the players Krzyzewski is counting on. After the U.S. beat Spain in the 2012 Olympic gold medal game, Spain this time with the World Cup on their home soil and starring the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka is the favorite in the tournament. Only the winner gets an automatic bid to the 2016 Olympics. The rest of the countries have to go through qualifying. That Rose’s knee has been strong and he’s shown no ill effects is a relief for the Bulls and USA Basketball.
With the withdrawal of so many big men, the team has been looking at Cousins, Andre Drummond, Kenneth Faried, Mason Plumlee and Chicago’s Anthony Davis, the latter certain to make the team. Former Bull Kyle Korver also has a good chance given the need for perimeter shooting in the international game. It would be a fitting honor for the popular Korver, who last season set an all-time NBA record for consecutive games with three pointers.
“I always felt like the better players are around me the harder it is to guard me and the better I am,” said Korver. “These are really good players and it’s a really good opportunity. I don’t consider myself an elite superstar player by any means. I’ve always tried to be an elite teammate. Someone you want. If you are going to build a team, you’d want me to be on it. That’s my biggest goal. Just to be invited to this, to put together the best possible team, I take it seriously. I don’t know what direction they’ll go, but I’ll try to knock down my shots and work hard.
“It’s an honor,” said Korver, 33, a second round pick in 2003 now with his fourth team. “I don’t like verbalizing a lot of this. I appreciate it’s happening at the end of my career and not the beginning. I’m here because of a body of work and not my potential someday down the road. That makes me want to keep on working. It makes you feel like you are on the right track and you want to keep on going.”
Korver played on scrimmage teams with Rose and said Rose looks again like when they were teammates with the Bulls.
“He looks explosive,” said Korver. “Explosive and strong. He’s in good shape and I have not a single concern about his knee. I know you (media) guys are all here because you want to see if his knee’s working, but his knee is fine. He’s sat out for two years, basically. It’s going to take time to get the game rhythm. Offensively, defensively, there’s a rhythm to the game and no matter how hard you work out, you can’t get it until you play five-on-five. What better place to play five-on-five than this, right here? So he looks great to me. His shot looks good. He doesn’t look like he’s favoring anything. He looks strong; he looks super explosive. He looks confident. He’s further along than I thought he would be. I got to play with him the last two days and he’s looked great to me. Really has.”
As for Rose, it’s all been not so much an “I told you so,” but more of what he’s been expecting, what he’s seen that the rest of us haven’t in the last few months.
“Waking up not sore, that’s kind of good,” Rose said with a laugh about his personal highlight Tuesday. “I feel like a basketball player now. I’m happy to be here, happy that I’m getting the attention, but at the same time I know that I have a long journey. And just try to take it one day at a time. The feeling is good. But at the same time I’ve been playing against some of these guys almost my whole life. Played against some of these guys when I was younger, and I had a chance to play against them when I was in college and the NBA. So we’ve been playing together for a long time and playing against each other for a long time. To actually be on the same team as these guys it makes the game easy.
“I can be more aggressive,” Rose said about his play thus far. “I’m picking and choosing, just try to see what the game needs, just trying to play my type of game. When I first came into the league, people were wondering if I could score. On my [Bulls] team I had to score. Here, I can be more of a point guard and really get guys in a groove, get them in a rhythm to shoot the ball. So my job is to play defense, push the ball up the court, get guys open and shoot open shots.
“I’m just happy to be out here, happy to be getting back in a rhythm, and just trying to make the team,” said Rose. “Just seeing if I can hold up. I know I can, but just seeing how my body feels. Jen (Bulls Director of Sports Performance Swanson) is here; she’s been on my butt, just making sure how good I feel, making sure that I’m fine. And I take my hat off to the Bulls, just calling me, checking on me, texting me, and really just giving advice on how I’m playing. It’s all good advice and all good criticism (Bulls executives John Paxson and Gar Forman also are at the camp).
“I think both days were the same,” Rose said about his play, which has included physical defense and quick moves to the basket. “I think I had one turnover both days. As a point guard, that’s the only thing I’m worrying about right now. Making sure that I’m pressuring the ball full court and making sure turnovers are low. Making sure I’m getting guys the ball when they need it. I think that’s going to help me next year on our team with the Bulls. Being more vocal, talking to the guys, inspiring guys when I’m on the court. I don’t talk as much, but when I talk (I find) guys listen. So I’m starting to pay attention to that and see if I can use that in a way to change the game. Just happy to be here, happy that team USA gave me a chance to be here and show everything. Just trying to be in a groove with my guys, learn my guys so that we can get in a groove and I understand their tendencies when I’m playing with them. Really just trying to live it up.”
Even if it’s not saving the day quite yet.
— NBA (@NBA) July 29, 2014