- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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NEW YORK -- The body is undeniably achy, maybe more sore than he ever expected after just one game back, but the ears?
No worries there for Derrick Rose.
It didn't take him any time at all Wednesday night, from the far end of the Team USA bench, to make out that rather Jeter-ish chant ringing around Madison Square Garden halfway through the second quarter.
And then halfway through the third quarter.
And again on multiple occasions in the fourth.
Der-rick Rose ... Der-rick Rose ... Der-rick Rose ...
"The crowd, them chanting your name four or five times, I'm like, 'Come on,'" Rose said after Team USA's 105-62 demolition of the Dominican Republic.
"I want to be out there, but at the same time, my health is the No. 1 issue right now."
It was an issue once more, on this occasion, because Rose was unexpectedly held out of a game he was supposed to play. He went through the morning shootaround, returned in his red, white and blue sweats for pregame warmups and appeared poised to come off the bench behind Kyrie Irving after sitting out two practices, only for Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski to decide that the Chicago Bulls' star guard would get one more night off in this exceedingly cautious comeback from two major knee injuries.
Yet neither Rose nor Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who happens to be as close to this comeback as he could conceivably be as one of Krzyzewski's Team USA assistants, is prepared to hit the pause button.
Rose did admit to some frustration about being forced to sit no matter how loudly his name was sung in one of the NBA's most storied buildings -- "Come on ... here?" Rose said -- but both Chicago guys remain convinced that a late-summer stint as a Team USA role player is the best way to shepherd 2011's most valuable player back to full speed.
"We went in with the idea that, as long as he's feeling good, he's gonna play [for Team USA]," Thibodeau said. "He's gotta play at some point. He's basically been out for three years, so he's gotta play, and I think this is a great setting for him -- as I've mentioned many times -- because of the depth of the team.
"You have Kyrie, Damian [Lillard], James [Harden]; there's so many guys. He doesn't have to play a lot of minutes or have the burden of scoring big. He just has to go out there and find a rhythm and run the team. With all the depth on the team, it's ideal for him. But if he needs rest, we're gonna give him rest. It's gonna be a process for him coming back. There's gonna be some days where he has some soreness. And when he has some soreness, we're gonna be smart."
After insisting that his problem, to use Thibodeau's description, was "general soreness" -- as opposed to knee-specific discomfort -- Rose said: "For sure, this is huge for me, just for my game. I don't [have] to go out there and score 25, 30 points every night."
Adamant that his fans "don't have to worry" that his knees are acting up, Rose vowed to practice Thursday and play here Friday night against Puerto Rico and "try to put on a show."
Team USA officials, meanwhile, just keep trying to tune out the noise as much as they can. Well aware that alarm bells will sound throughout the Windy City and beyond whenever Rose sits -- especially after what happened to Indiana's poor Paul George -- they're trying to focus instead on the slew of tough non-Rose decisions they face in coming days.
Krzyzewski, for starters, said he shelved Rose as much as anything to give the likes of Lillard and DeMar DeRozan extended minutes against the overmatched Dominicans, who were forced to lean heavily on 33-year-old Francisco Garcia with Atlanta Hawks All-Star big man Al Horford unavailable to his country this summer after losing much of the past two seasons to pectoral injuries.
Lillard, DeRozan, Andre Drummond and Gordon Hayward are four players at risk for exclusion from the final 12-man roster for the FIBA World Cup who were all handed a ration of minutes against the Dominicans to try to impress while Rose chilled. Kyle Korver, Chandler Parsons and Mason Plumlee joined Rose as DNP-CDs, with Krzyzewski announcing afterward that "we're still evaluating" whom to keep or drop.
"When we do eventually make decisions on the 12," Coach K said, "it'll be very, very difficult."
What we can tell you, at this juncture, is that (A) Krzyzewski says no one will be let go before the Puerto Rico game and (B) Rose continues to be one of the six players you should list as locks for the official World Cup dozen alongside Anthony Davis, Steph Curry, Kenneth Faried, Harden and Irving.
Yet we can lob in one disclaimer.
USAB officials have been consistent in recent days in saying that bringing more than 12 players to Spain and then making an extra cut or two after they get there is a prime option under consideration. One advantage to doing so, of course, is buying themselves an extra week before World Cup rosters are finalized Aug. 29 to see if that general soreness plaguing Rose since his grand return Saturday night in Chicago against Brazil is something that should have them fretting like all those noise-makers from the outside.
"We'll find that out," Krzyzewski said. "We'll find that out in the next few days before the tournament. We have time to find that out."
Said Thibodeau: "It's been good for him. This is why I thought it would be a good way for him to come back. He had a good week in Vegas, then we had practices in Chicago. It was a good build-up. And now we're giving him a chance to recover and then we'll go from there. He's feeling a lot better. He was probably feeling good enough to play tonight, but we thought because he hasn't played and he's still trying to shake off some rust, that the best thing to do would be to give him another day of rest.
"He warmed up tonight and felt pretty good, but I just think when he didn't practice the day before, you want him to practice the day before he plays. I think that's the best thing for him."
Maybe the best thing for the rest of us, then, is to start worrying when Thibs does.
33mMarc Stein and Tim MacMahon
1dEric D. Williams