The scene looked more like an NBA regular season game rather than a USA basketball event.
The Return of Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose made his first appearance in nine months at the Chicago Bulls’ United Center home floor on Saturday. The 2011 NBA MVP had played just a total of 10 NBA games in the last two seasons after suffering two serious knee injuries that have derailed his career and the championship hopes of the Bulls.
Rose managed to score just seven points in 24 minutes of playing time, but it was a game where he did not have to score as much as he’s needed to in a Bulls’ uniform. Team USA beat Brazil 95-78 in an exhibition game that was part of its preparations for the coming FIBA 2014 World Cup in Spain which begins on August 30th.
Getting the Crowd Excited
Rose was the last player introduced during the pre-game ceremonies, and that got the NBA-atmosphere crowd excited as they chanted “MVP” to welcome back their favorite son. When Rose took to the microphone at the start of game to address the crowd, it took him some thirty seconds before he could talk, as the crowd gave him an inspiring standing ovation.
Rose showed some rust as he missed a coupe of open shots and even a dunk attempt. That was acceptable and understandable. But what was impressive was that he looked like he’s never lost a step at all. He showed that patented explosiveness when he blew by a defender and hit a spectacular left handed lay-up over the Cavaliers’ Anderson Vajerao in the third quarter. Rose’s lay-up near the end of the first half also showed that he’s now able to control his incredible speed and quickness.
In the end, none of his stats really mattered because fellow Chicago native Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans had his breakout game as a National team player. The 6-11 forward scored 20 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked five shots. It was Davis who set the tone on both offense and defense, and his dive for a loose ball into the stands during the fourth quarter had the crowd chanting “USA”.
Team USA was playing without DeMarcus Cousins who had a minor knee injury and Coach Mike Krzyzewski had to give valuable minutes to Mason Plumlee to help Davis and power forward Kenneth Faried battle Brazil’s NBA frontline of Nene, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Varejao.
Brazil kept the game close 68-63 early in the fourth quarter with Splitter’s team high 16 points and Rafael Hettsheimeir’s 13 second half points. But Klay Thompson’s three pointer led a decisive 12-2 run that put the game away.James Harden scored 18 points for the Americans and Klay Thompson added 10 for Team USA.
Brazil played tough early on, and managed to stay within 68-63 early in the fourth quarter before Klay Thompson drilled a three pointer. Tiago Splitter led Brazil with 16 points while Rafael Hettsheimeir added 13 points.
Team USA has been reeling from the loss of Paul George to injury and the sudden withdrawal of Kevin Durant. These were also preceded by the withdrawals of Blake Griffin and Kevin Love for various reasons. But with Derrick Rose back in elite form, USA basketball is in good hands right now with the FIBA World Cup less than two weeks away.