Roster battles, return of Nene headline USA-Brazil matchup

Roster battles, return of Nene headline USA-Brazil matchup
August 16, 2014, 12:00 pm
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What: Team USA plays their first exhibition game - and first action under the lights since Paul George's gruesome leg injury - on Saturday night in Chicago against Brazil's national team.

When: 9 p.m., ESPN

  • What to know: The U.S. must cut the current roster of 16 to 12 before heading to Spain later this month for the World Cup of Basketball. Team USA will also play two exhibition games in New York next week before facing Finland in their World Cup opener on Aug. 30.

  • Who's out: Already working around Kevin Durant's surprise exit, coach Mike Krzyzewski now must deal with the absence of center DeMarcus Cousins. Arguably the top frontcourt scoring threat left on the roster, Cousins injured his knee in practice this week. The injury isn't considered serious, but enough to keep him against Brazil. Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond and Mason Plumlee are the other center options.

  • The other side: The strength of Brazil's squad exists inside with the big man trio of Anderson Vareajo, Tiago Splitter and of course, Nene. Last summer Nene skipped playing international competition in order to rest his aching feet, but he committed to playing for his home country this summer. "I need to forget about basketball for a little bit. In my case, I have things to do with the national team in the summer. I need to turn off right now. I have a responsibility. I have lot of children who look for me so I (must) do the right thing," Nene said back in May. As a reminder, Nene injured his foot playing for Brazil in the 2012 Olympics and the issue lingered into the 2012-13 NBA season.

  • Roster battle: Here's how I viewed the roster following the Aug. 2 scrimmage, immediately after George's injury

Power forward - Kevin Durant (lock), Kenneth Faried, Mason Plumlee

Small forward - Chandler Parsons, Kyle Korver

Center - Anthony Davis (lock), DeMarcus Cousins

Wing guard - Stephen Curry (lock), James Harden (lock), Klay Thompson

Point guard - Derrick Rose (lock), Kyrie Irving

[MORE: John Wall takes break before camp tips-off]

  • Obviously a spot opened with Durant's exit. The remaining options include point guard Damian Lillard, center Andre Drummond,  swingmen Gordon Hayward and DeMar DeRozan, and Rudy Gay, who joined the team this week. 

  • Assuming the injury isn't an issue, add Cousins to the lock list. Thompson and Faried also seem like an automatic picks at this point.

  • Even though he's the new guy, Gay has a tremendous chance to make the team. He provides another stretch-4 option and is arguably the best scorer among the swing forward options.

  • Irving and Lillard are probably battling for one spot. Give the edge to the Dukie until further notice.