What we learned following USA Basketball's 95-78 exhibition win over Brazil on Saturday night in Chicago...
Anthony Davis is a monster: The top U.S. stars aren't heading to Spain for the World Cup of Basketball later this month. Not Kevin Durant, not Kevin Love, not Blake Griffin. No worries because the New Orleans Pelicans big man is ready for his close up. Even though Brazil's frontcourt includes notable NBA talent like Nene, Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter, Davis dominated on both ends. He led all scorers with 20 points including 12 in the second half as Team USA pulled away. Davis beautifully ran the court for transition scores and had an incredible baseline tip-in. His length stunned Brazil's shooters at times as seemingly open looks turned into block shots. Many observers are suggesting this will be the event where Davis ascends to the NBA's elite player status. No argument here.
Nene is alive and mobile: The Wizards fan base caught a glimpse of their Brazilian big man for the first time since Washington's season ended. Maybyner Rodney Hilario - that's Nene's birth name - scored 11 points , battled inside and even hit two free throws in a row. Best of all, he looked physically fit. During the broadcast, ESPN's Mark Jones said that Nene didn't touch a basketball for 3-4 weeks this summer and used Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) to help train for the World Cup. The specific discipline wasn't specified. Brazilian jujitsu, perhaps.
Derrick Rose is back-ish: The Chicago Bulls star played his first game in nine months after suffering a knee injury and did so at his home court in front of a packed arena. From ProBasketballTalk.com's Brett Pollakoff:
Rose did look a bit rusty; whether it was due to the nerves of being back on his home floor for the first time in so long, or simply the excitement brought by his first real competition over that same span, he definitely didn’t dominate the way he’s capable of. ...Even if Rose has changed his game as he recently proclaimed, his signature speed was as prominent as ever. ..."“He’s shaking some rust off,” USA Basketball assistant and Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said afterward. “But his explosiveness was back.”
The roster is set: Fine, it's probably not. There are in fact two exhibition games left when Team USA moves camp to New York. Not everyone played on the U.S. side, but those that received meaningful minutes comprised my final roster projection with Rudy Gay stepping in for Kevin Durant. Yes, including Mason Plumlee. The lone exception, center DeMarcus Cousins, who sat out after suffering a knee injury during practice this week. We can move the energetic Kenneth Faried into the "lock" category after his relentless defensive and rebounding performance. Faried started along with Davis, Rose, James Harden (18 points) and Stephen Curry.