Gran Canaria, Spain (4E Sports) – Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski has tapped Kyrie Irving as starting point guard when the Americans take on Slovenia Tuesday in their final tuneup game leading into the FIBA World Cup.
Explaining his move, Krzyzewski said that one option under consideration is alternate Irving and Derrick Rose as starter throughout the tournament, which opens Saturday in Bilbao with the Americans facing Finland.
“We’ll see as thing goes on,” Krzyzewski said after Monday’s two-hour practice. “We might alternate them. Both of them are going to play significant minutes.”
Krzyzewski sees Irving and Rose playing together once the tournament starts as the latter continues to acclimate himself to full-speed basketball after two major knee injuries limited him to just 10 games over the past two seasons with the Chicago Bulls.
“I asked him today, and he said, ‘I feel great,’” Krzyzewski said of Rose. “He did everything. He’s full go. I think there’s a part of him that’s like: ‘Quit asking me how I feel. I’m good.’ So I’m not going to ask him anymore.”
Team USA arrived in Las Palmas early Sunday morning and held a two-hour practice Monday after voluntary workouts on their first afternoon in Spain.
Krzyzewski also explained his move to keep Brooklyn’s Mason Plumlee and Detroit’s Andre Drummond on the official 12-man World Cup roster, saying it gives Anthony Davis spot minutes at his preferred NBA position next to a more traditional big man in DeMarcus Cousins.
Having relied heavily on small-ball lineups in its last two major competitions, USA Basketball officials wanted the ability to play big lineups in this tournament when needed.
“It’s not like we’re making this wholesale change, because [Kenneth] Faried and [Rudy] Gay are playing well at the 4,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s a secondary look.”
Despite the pullouts of Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Russell Westbrook, as well as the emotional injury loss of Paul George, Team USA remains a heavy favorite to cruise through Group C play with no real resistance.
Turkey, New Zealand, the Dominican Republic and Mike Fratello-coached Ukraine are the Americans’ other opponents in pool play after the Finland game.