Jerry Colangelo said Friday that Anthony Davis could be one of the dominant players in the NBA “a couple years” from now. Well, it’s safe to fast-track that one.
In his first appearance in Chicago since the 2011 McDonald’s All-American Game (he was injured both times the Pelicans came to town in his first two seasons), Davis was clearly the best player on the floor, leading Team USA with 20 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in a 95-78 victory over Brazil.
“He’s one of the best players in the NBA,” said USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “Anthony is one of the emerging stars. We hope that what happened to a lot of those guys in 2010 will happen to him in this competition, where it just launches what should be a storied career for him.”
Despite a strength advantage down low, Brazil had no answer for the wiry Davis, who dominated both ends of the floor: catching lobs, attacking the glass, contesting and rejecting shots with ease. Equally impressive was his relentless approach, diving for loose balls and on one scary occasion flipping headfirst into the crowd.
“I’m just trying to go out there and play,” said Davis. “I’m very comfortable and confident, so I just go out and play to the best of my ability.”
The supremely talented Davis is the ideal center for this group, providing cover for the guards, able to step out and hit a jumper and impacting the game without the ball in his hands. At 21, he’s already one of the best players in the world, and the World Championships will provide the necessary platform for him to announce himself.
Rose makes anticipated United Center return
Derrick Rose’s much-hyped return to the United Center was overall a positive one. He drew more standing ovations than he had points, but looked explosive and assertive on the floor. After limited run in the first half, Rose played the entire third quarter and much of the fourth, and surely calmed the nerves of fans who might still have been questioning his health.
“One of the things about bringing a guy back is if you keep monitoring his minutes, you put a lid on him,” Krzyzewski said. “He needs to learn how to play tired, we wanted to see that and he did pretty good.”
Two plays highlighted Rose’s night: at the end of the first half, he was inserted into the game and given the ball for a final shot. A vintage-looking Rose went up the floor, drove the lane and banked in a buzzer-beating runner from the left wing. Midway through the third quarter, his quickness was back on display as he crossed over, split two defenders and finished left-handed at the rim for a layup. Although he missed a wide-open two-handed dunk in the first half, there was a lot to be happy about.
“It felt good,” Rose said of his seven-point performance. “I was of course winded after playing four or five minutes, but I’m just playing through it every day. Going to practice and playing hard, doing conditioning on my legs, I’m doing the things to make myself a better athlete.”
From the moment his name was called (though he wore number six, Rose went last in introductions) to the final seconds of the game as he dribbled the ball, the Chicago fans gave their star a much-anticipated welcome. Welcoming fans before the game, Rose made a point of addressing the violence in his city and how much this entire week of basketball, with Nike’s World Basketball Festival also in town, meant to Chicago. He’s a talismanic figure in his hometown, and it’s increasingly apparent that he understands his own influence.
Faried starts in a surprising move by Krzyzewski
After watching Rudy Gay run with the starting group in practice on Thursday, seeing Kenneth Faried’s name in the starting lineup was a little bit surprising. But the Denver Nuggets star was excellent in his role, providing much-needed interior muscle with 11 points and 9 rebounds and rotating with Gay for the majority of minutes at the four. Known for his energy, Faried brought exactly that and was a major reason for the 44-34 rebounding split in favor of the Americans.
The biggest roster takeaway from the night is that Faried has Krzyzewski’s trust, and appears in good position to make the team. It’ll be intriguing to monitor his playing time when DeMarcus Cousins eventually returns -- a series of strong performances could bolster Faried’s case for World Cup minutes. He doesn’t help Team USA spread the floor, but he’s relentless and can play alongside Davis, who can play more of a four role on offense, but also defend fives.
Mason Plumlee’s performance confirmed his edge over Andre Drummond, who didn’t get in the game. The Brooklyn Nets center was active, set strong screens and fought hard around the rim, excelling in his role and drawing praise from Krzyzewski after the game. Originally a member of the USA Select team, Plumlee set himself apart this month and earned a place on the final roster.
Looking at the overall picture, DeMar DeRozan, Gordon Hayward and Drummond didn’t log any minutes. Damian Lillard entered briefly after Kyrie Irving picked up his fourth foul, but made no impact. Against a tough Brazilian side, Krzyzewski understandably kept his rotation tighter but at the moment, those four appear to be the odd men out. The remaining friendly matches, against the Dominican Republic (August 20), Puerto Rico (August 22) and Slovenia (August 26) could provide more playing time for the bubble guys against weaker opponents, so there’s potential opportunity left. USA Basketball won’t need to make its final cuts until August 29.