November 26, 2014
It has been awhile since Derrick Rose was a mop-up player.
Then again, Team USA trailing Turkey by five points at the half isn’t exactly the norm, either.
In the second game of pool play at the FIBA World Cup, the United States was getting embarrassed by a Turkey team with only one NBA player, and Rose was one of many culprits.
So it was no coincidence that U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski stayed with his starting five for most of the third quarter, which meant Kyrie Irving over Rose. The starters engineered an emphatic comeback in those 10 minutes, outscoring the Turks 31-20.
Thanks to 22 points and eight rebounds from Kenneth Faried and Irving’s composure in the second half, Team USA pulled away for a 98-77 victory Sunday in Bilbao, Spain.
Rose went 0-for-4 from the field and 2-for-4 from the free-throw line and had two rebounds and two turnovers. It was a far cry from his game against Finland, in which he scored 12 points and was much more aggressive offensively.
Rose’s performance was disappointing, but it wasn’t completely unexpected.
Coming off two season-ending knee surgeries since the 2012 playoffs and after playing a team-high 22 minutes, 41 seconds in the 114-55 victory Saturday over Finland, Rose couldn’t hide the rust.
Coach Tom Thibodeau, an assistant for Team USA, has been stressing that adversity eventually would pay Rose a visit. That’s not a bad thing, either.
“For Derrick, it’s a step-by-step process,’’ Thibodeau said recently. “He’s steadily getting better, and this experience, this is the perfect setting for him. I know how important it is to him. All summer long, he’s gotten more comfortable.
“He went through the comeback last year, and he learned a lot from it. He’s still shaking some rust off. He’s in a really good place. He’s prepared himself extremely well. It’s unfortunate what he’s gone through, but that adversity has made him a lot stronger, and I see growth for him. I love where he is mentally and physically.’’
The good news for Rose and Team USA is that they get a breather Monday before playing three days in a row heading into the knockout round.
Irving has entrenched himself as the starter, but it doesn’t mean he has usurped Rose’s place in the NBA point-guard totem pole. Even coming off his knee problems, Rose showed early on in the USA trials that Irving was still no match for him. He showed it in team drills, scrimmages and the intrasquad game in Las Vegas.
But Irving has closed the gap, starting in Chicago two-plus weeks ago when he suddenly started going right at Rose.
They’re teammates for now, but Rose vs. Irving will be front and center once the NBA regular season begins. The Bulls and Cavaliers are the front-runners in the Eastern Conference, so Irving gaining confidence against Rose this summer isn’t exactly ideal.
Rose admitted that he was collecting information and studying Irving’s tendencies but downplayed the notion that Bulls-Cavs or even Rose-Irving had reached “rivalry’’ level just yet.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a rivalry yet,’’ Rose said. “We haven’t played against each other, but they have a great team.’’