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Roster spots on line for Team USA

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- James Harden doesn't envy coach Mike Krzyzewski's position this week. Krzyzewski is expected to trim Team USA's current 16-man roster to 12 or 13 by the end of the week and those tough decisions could come as soon as Thursday, according to USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo.

So Wednesday's exhibition against the Dominican Republic at Madison Square Garden could be the final audition for several players vying for a spot on the team.

"Guys that are max players and All-Stars aren't making the team, so it's tough," Harden said after practice at the Brooklyn Nets' practice facility.

It's possible that Krzyzewski could make cuts after Wednesday's game in order to practice on Thursday and play Friday's exhibition against Puerto Rico with the majority of the group that he will take with him to Spain for the FIBA World Cup.

The United States is scheduled to travel to Europe on Saturday and USA Basketball has to submit its 12-man roster on Aug. 29, a day before the Cup begins. So Krzyzewski could take 13 players with him to Europe before having to name his final roster.

Harden, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose, Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried are expected to make up the team's core. Rose's health, though, could always be an issue as he did not practice for the second straight day on Tuesday to rest his surgically repaired knees.

DeMarcus Cousins, Mason Plumlee and Andre Drummond are competing to be the backup big man to Davis. It's possible that two of them could travel to Spain.

"Everybody knows what's at stake," said Drummond, who did not play in Team USA's 95-78 exhibition win over Brazil on Saturday. "You got four days 'til they make the decision. So it really comes down to everybody just playing their games and not really worrying about the decision and focus on the main point, which is winning these two games."

Guards Damian Lillard and DeMar DeRozan, and swingmen Klay Thompson, Rudy Gay, Chandler Parsons, Kyle Korver and Gordon Hayward, are all competing for roster spots.

"You look at every guy that is in here, they are the star of their team," DeRozan said. "Obviously, we still got a job to do. The guys who don't go, they still will be a part of this team that is winning a gold medal because everybody went through this whole process together."

Except for Gay, who was added to the team on Aug. 8 after Kevin Durant pulled out. The Sacramento Kings forward has had to do some catching up compared to his teammates.

Even with the cuts looming this week, the players are cherishing their time spent this summer playing for USA Basketball and believe it will make them better for the upcoming NBA season.

"Everybody keeps throwing out that 'cut' word," DeRozan said. "It is not a bad thing if you get cut. It is an honor to be here first and foremost. You got to think about the amount of people that didn't even get invited."

That's why Thompson says making the final roster would "be a knock off the bucket list."

"Just to be here is an honor, to be around this much talent," Thompson said. "You can't help but get better being around these guys. ... For me it would be a dream come true and the perfect way to go into the season and go in great shape, get better and hopefully go in with a gold medal."

"I am not nervous," Thompson added. "If I get cut, I am going to take away a great experience I had from this and just work harder to make the Olympic team."