Rose's big test: 3 games in 3 nights
Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski told ESPN.com after Tuesday's comfortable win over New Zealand that his current plan is indeed to play Rose again on Wednesday night against the Dominican Republic and Thursday night as well as against Ukraine in the teams' Group C finale.
Although his statistical production has been modest, Rose has shown Team USA coaches enough in his first three games to convince them that he's prepared to handle the rigors of the Americans' five-games-in-six-nights schedule in pool play.
"I thought he moved well," Krzyzewski said. "He doesn't show any signs of favoring anything."
One option available to USA Basketball officials was resting Rose in one of this week's three games -- presumably Wednesday's middle game -- to guard against him overextending himself early in this comeback from catastrophic injuries to both knees. But Krzyzewski and assistant Tom Thibodeau, Rose's coach in Chicago, are openly pleased with Rose's progress.
"I think he'll be fine," Thibodeau said of the prospect of Rose playing in all three games of a back-to-back-to-back set. "He's working every day. The only way you're going to shake the rust off is by playing.
"Physically he feels good. Mentally he's good. But he's got to work on his timing. He hasn't played in two years basically. So it doesn't happen overnight, and I think he understands that. He's showing great patience. It'll come. It'll come."
After telling ESPN.com upon arrival in Spain that he was flirting with the prospect of alternating Kyrie Irving and Rose as his starting point guard if Rose proved up to it physically, Krzyzewski did just that to start the second half against New Zealand, putting Rose in Irving's place.
Rose started the fourth quarter as well and finished with three points in nearly 17 minutes. The 2011 NBA MVP missed five of the six shots he attempted from the field against New Zealand, but Krzyzewski was eager to reunite Rose with Team USA starter James Harden, with whom he formed a good chemistry during the squad's training camp in Las Vegas at the end of July.
"He has to get minutes with the guys that are playing more minutes, because he is a guy who should play a lot of minutes," Krzyzewski said, suggesting he'd like to see Rose take on a bigger role as the tournament continues to unfold.
Said Thibodeau: "We want to see a lot of different combinations. Each day is a little different. We wanted to see him on the floor with the other starters to see if we could get him going a little bit. "[But] I want him to just concentrate on his improvement and, when he's on the floor, run the team well. And he's more than capable of doing that.
"He's shaking off some rust as we anticipated," Thibodeau continued, "but he's capable of playing very well."
Rose already reached a milestone of sorts here Sunday night when he came off the bench in an otherwise forgettable first half for Team USA against Turkey.
Rose's entrance into the game marked the first time he played in the second half of a back-to-back set since Nov. 22, when his ill-fated appearance in Portland that night came to a halt with Rose suffering the second major knee injury of his short NBA career.
In Saturday's opener against Finland, Rose played more minutes (23) than any other Team USA player. But the aggression, spring and zip Rose unleashed against the Finns was never in evidence against Turkey. His feel and timing were clearly missing, too, landing Rose on the bench for the entire third quarter.
Yet it also must be said that Rose has seemed more at ease since the squad left the United States for Europe, even before Tuesday's opportunities to run with Harden, Anthony Davis and the rest of the first five. He's been facing all the questions about his knees from nosy reporters head-on, even after Krzyzewski shared with ESPN.com last week that he sensed "a part of [Rose] that's like, 'Quit asking me how I feel, I'm good.'"
"I'm just trying to put that behind me," Rose said of any trepidation he's feeling as he ramps up his comeback from the two devastating injuries that limited him to 10 games over the past two seasons with the Bulls.
"I know the questions are going to come, and they're going to be there the whole year. So I can't get tired of it. I'm feeling good right now.
"Just trying to get in better shape, get in better condition, so that when I do need to score the ball, then it'll be there."