U.S. trims final roster to 12

Edgar Sosa

NEW YORK -- USA Basketball has decided to drop Damian Lillard, Chandler Parsons, Kyle Korver and Gordon Hayward from its roster for the FIBA World Cup in Spain.

With the moves not expected to be revealed until later Saturday, USAB instead announced its final 12-man squad for Spain in a 1 a.m. ET news release, some four hours after completing a 112-86 exhibition rout of Puerto Rico at Madison Square Garden.

Toronto's DeMar DeRozan and Detroit's Andre Drummond, widely regarded as prime candidates to be left home at the start of the week, claimed the last two roster spots alongside starters Kyrie Irving (Cleveland),  Stephen Curry (Golden State), James Harden (Houston), Kenneth Faried (Denver) and Anthony Davis (New Orleans) and reserves Derrick Rose (Chicago), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento), Klay Thompson (Golden State), Rudy Gay (Sacramento) and Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn).

Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the Puerto Rico game that he had concluded keeping at least five and "possibly six" big men was a must to get through the tournament. The Americans will play nine games between Aug. 30 and Sept. 14, including a potential championship game against host Spain and its imposing frontcourt featuring Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka.

Keeping Drummond, along with Cousins, Plumlee and starters Davis and Faried, gives Krzyzewski five legit big men, stretching to six if Gay, who has the size to play the power positions internationally, is included.?

Sources familiar with the selection process told ESPN.com that Dallas' Parsons in particular, thought to have a strong case to make the final 12-man roster after the withdrawal of Kevin Durant and the injury loss of Paul George, was unexpectedly squeezed out by USAB's desire to field as big a team as possible.

That desire for added size, sources said, led to the surprise inclusion of Drummond over the likes of Parsons and sharpshooter Korver, while DeRozan's size and strength relative to most guards ultimately won out over Portland's Lillard.

"Since taking over the USA Basketball men's national team program in 2005, this was without doubt the most difficult selection process we've gone through," USAB chairman Jerry Colangelo said in a statement. "I can't stress enough the outstanding effort and commitment that has been given by each finalist. I also want to make it clear that this is not just about talent; each player is incredibly talented and each player offered us unique skills. In the end it was about assembling the best team, selecting guys who we felt would be able to best play the kind of style we envision this team playing."

Said Krzyzewski: "I'm excited about the 12 players selected and feel we have excellent versatility and the makings of a really good defensive team."

After flirting earlier this week with taking 13 or even 14 players to Spain for an extra week of evaluation, Krzyzewski announced after the Puerto Rico game that only 12 players would be on Saturday afternoon's flight.

"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.

ESPN.com subsequently reported that Utah's Hayward was the first of the four players released to learn his fate. Sources say Hayward found out Friday morning after asking team officials directly before the Puerto Rico game, since it had become apparent that he had fallen behind others in Team USA's wing rotation.

Lillard, DeRozan and Drummond, like Hayward, didn't play a single second against Puerto Rico. But Krzyzewski and Colangelo apparently had already decided that DeRozan and Drummond, two standouts in Wednesday night's victory over the Dominican Republic at Madison Square Garden, had shown enough to secure spots.

Any doubts about Rose's participation were squelched by Krzyzewski in his postgame news conference.

While acknowledging that "we need to see how Derrick reacts [physically]" after his 13-minute stint off the bench behind new starter Irving, Krzyzewski capped a week of coast-to-coast fretting about the court time Rose missed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday by declaring that "I feel very confident about Derrick."

"I think Derrick feels very confident," Krzyzewski added. "And these guys want to play with him. That's part of getting back ... to be around a group of your peers."

Krzyzewski contends that serving as a role player for Team USA, as opposed to waiting until Bulls training camp in October to aggressively launch his comeback after two serious knee injuries, is going to be a "huge, huge help for him."

Final 12-man rosters for the World Cup aren't due until Aug. 29 -- the eve of the tournament's opening day -- but bringing only 12 players overseas should tone down some of the drama that has enveloped this group throughout a chaotic two months in which Durant, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Russell Westbrook withdrew from participation before George suffered a catastrophic compound leg fracture Aug. 1 in an intrasquad scrimmage.

Losing all those big names, Krzyzewski said, has forced Team USA to "develop a new chemistry" in short order. It's a process that will continue throughout each of the Americans' five games in pool play in Group C, given the group's lack of collective international experience.

Gay had a minor role on the 2010 world championship-winning squad but didn't join this team until mid-August as Durant's 11th-hour replacement. Yet he forced his way into the chosen dozen anyway, like DeRozan and Drummond.

"Rudy keeps getting better," Krzyzewski said.

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