It was a mere formality at this point, but Tuesday morning, Derrick Rose was one of 16 players named as a finalist on the USA Basketball men's national team.
Playing his first competitive basketball in more than eight months, Rose arguably had been the most impressive player in practice the past week. All his magnificent play behind closed doors in practice came to light in Friday night's exhibition in Las Vegas. Though Paul George's gruesome leg injury overshadowed the contest, Rose put together an impressive showing that included a coast-to-coast lay-up and two-handed dunk in the game's first five minutes. He finished the game with eight points and one assist.
The team is now off until next week when they will arrive in Chicago for two days of practice before competing in an exhibition against Brazil at the United Center on Aug. 16. They will then play a pair of exhibition games in New York City at Madison Square Garden. The team then will head to Gran Canaria, Spain to complete its exhibition tour against Slovenia on Aug. 26 before the World Cup begins on Aug. 30. Part of Group C, Team USA will open its preliminary round play against Finland, followed by contests against Turkey, New Zealand and Ukraine.
Much of the attention this past week had been on Rose, who spoke candidly about his second return from a season-ending knee injury. And while in both practices and the showcase on Friday showed that Rose is just about back to his old self, he admitted early in the practice week that he's now a "completely different player" who has worked on his outside jumper, floaters and other shots to "make the game easy."
Throughout the week, players and coaches alike — including Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, an assistant with Team USA — noted that Rose looked like his old dynamic self.
[RELATED - Rose dazzles at outset of Team USA scrimmage]
"He looks explosive. Explosive and strong," Kyle Korver told CSN's Aggrey Sam. "He’s in good shape and I have not a single concern about his knee."
Added head coach Mike Krzyzewski: "He has great balance and strength. 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."
And said Thibodeau: "He is making plays. He’s playing both sides of the ball. He’s not forcing things. He’s making the right decision. When he’s open and he should shoot, he shoots and when he’s not, he moves the ball. He’s running the team. He’s getting the team to get the ball up the floor quickly. Those are all big pluses."