Derrick Rose heard the fans chanting his name, and yes, he would have loved to give them what they wanted.
But after missing most of the past two years and with still a long summer of basketball ahead, he’s willing to take this return slowly.
"Just trying to protect myself, just knowing that this is a long, long schedule and this is the most basketball I’ll be playing in two years," Rose said.
"I want to be out there, but at the same time my health is the No. 1 issue right now."
With Rose sitting out, Kyrie Irving started and made all five shots, scoring 12 points as the U.S. national basketball team beat the Dominican Republic 105-62 on Wednesday night in an exhibition game.
James Harden also scored 12 in limited playing time for the Americans, who used their subs for most of the second half. Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan each scored 13 points.
Rose and U.S. assistant Tom Thibodeau, Rose’s coach with the Chicago Bulls, both said he was experiencing general soreness, though Rose was quick to point out it was nothing related to his multiple knee surgeries.
Rose’s absence allowed U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski to take a longer look at other players with cuts coming soon. The Americans have 16 players on the roster and have to get down to 12 before the upcoming Basketball World Cup.
"When we do eventually make decisions on the 12, it will be very, very difficult," Krzyzewski said.
Krzyzewski said there would be no cuts before Friday’s game against Puerto Rico, and he said Rose would play that night.
Fans chanted loudly in the third quarter for Rose to get into this one, but Krzyzewski decided shortly before tip the Chicago Bulls star wouldn’t play.
Rose had sat out practices the past two days after starting in Saturday’s exhibition victory over Brazil on his home floor, saying Tuesday he just wanted extra rest as he tries to play his way back into shape after missing most of the past two seasons because of knee surgeries.
"He’s feeling a lot better, he was probably feeling good enough to play tonight, but because he hasn’t played and he’s trying to shake off some rust, the best thing to do was to give him the day off," Thibodeau said.
Houston Rockets forward Francisco Garcia scored 14 points for the Dominican Republic, coached by South Florida’s Orlando Antigua. The Dominicans are without their best player, the Atlanta Hawks’ Al Horford, who is recovering from a torn right pectoral muscle.
Karl Towns played 10 minutes for the Dominicans, though he won’t accompany them to Spain as the highly touted freshman heads to Kentucky. The team shot 34 percent.
"Would’ve liked to shot the ball a lot better, but I thought we did a lot of good things throughout the game. We showed some good points," Antigua said.
The teams will meet again in Bilbao, Spain, where they are both in Group C.
The Americans leave Saturday for Spain, where they will finish their preparations with a final exhibition against Slovenia. The World Cup opens on Aug. 30.
The Dominicans took a 6-4 lead, the Americans answered with 14 straight points to make it 18-6, and that was about it. The Americans expanded a 28-17 lead after one quarter to 53-31 at the half, as Harden and Klay Thompson each scored 10 points by the break.
The U.S. pushed it to 69-34 with a little more than 4 minutes left in the third after a flurry by Irving, allowing for extra playing time for players at the back end of the roster such as Andre Drummond and Gordon Hayward.
Drummond finished with 12 points for the Americans, who shot 58 percent.
Chandler Parsons, Kyle Korver and Mason Plumlee were the only Americans who didn’t play.
Before the game, U.S. military members presented each player with two dog tags. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said one featured the American flag, the player’s name, and the words leadership, service and teamwork, and the other featured the name of a serviceman.