Mike Krzyzewski is ready to decide who is going with him to Spain.
The U.S. national team coach said the Americans expect to trim their roster to 12 on Saturday before leaving for Europe, after team officials had previously said they might carry extra players.
Final rosters for the FIBA World Cup of Basketball aren’t due until next Friday, but the Americans won’t need that much time.
"We feel that it’s better to go with 12 because that’s really difficult on anybody if they’re not going to be on the team to travel that far," Krzyzewski said after the U.S. beat Puerto Rico 112-86 on Friday night in their final home exhibition game.
Derrick Rose came off the bench and scored six points in 14 minutes. He apparently will make the team if he and team officials feel his health allows it.
"These guys want to play with him. That’s part of getting back is to be around a group of peers," Krzyzewski said.
Stephen Curry scored 20 points and Krzyzewski announced the Golden State guard was on the team as they appeared together in the postgame press conference. But the All-Star was never in danger of getting cut.
All-Star Damian Lillard, Andre Drummond, Gordon Hayward and DeMar DeRozan are, as the four players on the 16-man roster who didn’t play Friday. But Krzyzewski insisted his mind wasn’t made up and that he still had to speak with USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo before Saturday’s announcement.
"It’s a collective decision and Jerry puts the final stamp on it. We haven’t had a chance to discuss the new input from tonight but I thought we got some really good performances," Krzyzewski said, mentioning forwards Kenneth Faried and Rudy Gay.
James Harden and Gay had 13 points apiece for the Americans, who will play a final exhibition game in Spain against Slovenia and open the World Cup next Saturday against Finland.
The U.S. led 52-47 after Klay Thompson’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of an entertaining first half before a divided crowd that included plenty of Puerto Rican fans. Knicks All-Star and two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist Carmelo Anthony, who is part Puerto Rican, was in the front row along with golfer Rory McIlroy and tennis star Andy Murray.
Rose checked in midway through the first quarter after sitting out the previous game and a couple of practices this week after feeling soreness following last Saturday’s exhibition opener against Brazil. He has sat out most of the last two seasons after a pair of knee surgeries, and has to prove he is ready to lead a U.S. team that has already lost some good players this summer to withdrawals and injuries.
The Americans are still good enough to defend their world title with the roster that remains but are vulnerable, which Puerto Rico proved by staying right with them for 20 minutes.
But they can also turn close games into blowouts in a hurry, which they did by outscoring Puerto Rico 14-2 to open the second half, with some energetic plays from Faried on both ends, to open a 66-49 lead.
"The team is looking great," Puerto Rico guard Carlos Arroyo said. "A lot of young guys motivated to represent their country with a lot of pride and honor, and you’ve got to give respect to that."
Puerto Rico’s veteran backcourt of Arroyo and J.J. Barea has loads of international and NBA experience, and they didn’t wilt under relentless U.S. pressure the way so many other teams do. Former Knicks forward Renaldo Balkman also started for the Puerto Ricans, who play in Group B along with regional rival Argentina, Croatia, Greece, Senegal and the Philippines.
Barea scored 16 points and Arroyo had 15.
But the U.S. went with its starters more in the second half. Anthony Davis and Faried seemed to contest everything Puerto Rico shot, and the Americans pushed it to 87-67 heading to the fourth. Curry had the highlight play of the second half, a long behind-the-back pass to Harden for a bucket.
"Not every game is going to be pretty when we get to Spain, so this is a good test for us and a good experience for everybody on the roster," Curry said.