The outcome of Friday night’s exhibition game is more or less a sure thing: The United States will beat Puerto Rico, improving to 3-0 in tuneups for the World Cup of basketball, which starts August 30 in Spain.
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But the game is important for a number of reasons. It’s a valuable opportunity for the team to continue to mesh after convincing wins over Brazil and the Dominican Republic. It’s an opportunity for Derrick Rose to get back on the court after missing Wednesday’s win over the DR with knee soreness.
Most importantly, it’s the last opportunity for players to show coach Mike Krzyzewsi that they’re worthy of making the trip to Spain before Coach K and cuts four players and trims the roster from 16 players to 12.
Krzyzewski told reporters after practice Thursday that he “hates” making cuts. But it’s a necessary evil.
Here’s how Coach K described the process, according to the USA Basketball website:
I hate it. I hate it, and it’s the worst thing really about the process. But, it’s much better than selecting twelve to begin with, having guys hurt or drop out and then asking somebody who hasn’t been there, ‘will you come in and now you are called the alternate,’ so the U.S. is going forward with nine guys and three alternates. None of these guys are alternates. All these guys are candidates, and worthy candidates, and then we are going to take twelve worthy candidates and we are not going to take four others who are are worthy too. That is the way that we’ve done this for almost a decade, and we are going to keep that mindset.
Krzyzewski will make the cuts before the team heads to Spain next week. The Americans are scheduled to play Slovenia in an exhibition game Tuesday in Gran Canaria before opening the World Cup next Saturday against Finland in Bilbao.
The U.S. should handle Puerto Rico easily, but Puerto Rico isn’t without talent. The team’s roster includes Minnesota Timberwolves guard J.J. Barea and former NBA veteran Carlos Arroyo, who played for seven NBA teams in 10 seasons, most recently with the Celtics in 2011.
Here’s what you need to know about the game:
WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m. Eastern
WHERE: Madison Square Garden
LIVE STREAM: WatchESPN.com (cable provider and log-in required)
HEAVY’S PICK: USA 98, Puerto Rico 70
Kyrie Irving replaced Derrick Rose in the starting lineup and put on a show at Madison Square Garden, leading Team USA to a rout of the Dominican Republic.Click here to read more