US guard Derrick Rose (L) vies with Ukraine's guard Dmytro Zabirchenko (R) during the 2014 FIBA World basketball championships group C match Ukraine vs USA at the Bizkaia Arena in Bilbao on September 4, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ANDER GILLENEAANDER GILLENEA/AFP/Getty Images
Updated: September 6, 2014 12:56AM
For a few minutes Thursday, it seemed that Derrick Rose would be back in Team USA’s starting lineup.
Not because of his performance in the 95-71 victory against Ukraine in the FIBA World Cup. After all, going 2-for-9 from the field for four points and shooting 8-for-32 (25 percent) overall in the five Group C games doesn’t exactly scream, “Start me, Coach!’’
But with 1:12 left, starting point guard Kyrie Irving fell hard to the court, favoring his back before being helped to the locker room.
Irving seized the starting job from Rose after the exhibition victory against Brazil in Chicago last month, and Rose hasn’t given the coaching staff any reason to give it back.
There were a few more signs that Rose’s two-year buildup of rust was working itself off, highlighted by a nifty up-and-under layup in the second quarter. But there also were way too many missed shots and a constant struggle around the rim, which is bordering on alarming.
When Irving went down, however, it looked like Rose could get the starting nod Saturday against Mexico in the round of 16.
But that speculation was put to rest when Irving tweeted: “I’m all good, everybody. Just a tough fall. Appreciate the concern.’’
USA Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski confirmed to reporters after the game in Bilbao, Spain, that he didn’t “anticipate a serious injury.’’
So it’s back to the bench for Rose, and the wait for that breakout game continues.
The last two games haven’t been all bad for Rose. After opening pool play with a 12-point showing against Finland, Rose looked disengaged the next two games. Against the Dominican Republic and Ukraine, however, Rose’s numbers weren’t pretty, but his playmaking skills were solid and his defensive energy returned.
And playing five games in six days without any setbacks or health concerns with the two surgically repaired knees can be considered a success.
The knockout phase of the tournament should ramp up the intensity, exactly what the U.S. team and Rose need.
Ukraine led 19-14 at the end of the first quarter as the United States seemed to be sleepwalking. Even midway through the second quarter, Ukraine had a two-point lead until Stephen Curry made a three-pointer.
That seemed to flip a switch for his teammates. Team USA outscored Ukraine 30-13 in the second quarter to take a comfortable lead into the half.
James Harden led Team USA with 17 points. He was 7-for-12 from the field and added five assists.
Curry had 14 points, and Irving finished with 11.