Damian Lillard got to play a whole lot more in Team USA’s exhibition game against the Dominican Republic yesterday than he did in their game against Brazil last Saturday. He went from playing just two minutes to playing a team-high 24:15. This was partially due to expected lineup experimentation, and partially due to Derrick Rose sitting out with knee soreness.
Unfortunately, Lillard did not stand out in the 105-62 victory. He tallied just a seventh best seven points for Team USA, as well as a game-high four turnovers. It could be reasonably argued that he did more harm than good, but that is probably an overstatement. He was involved, but not pivotal to his team’s success. I don’t think Coach Krzyzewski wants him in a leading role anyway.
What is interesting here is that Lillard was legitimately needed for depth purposes. With Rose sitting, Stephen Curry playing the shooting guard position, and Kyrie Irving transposed into the starting lineup, Lillard was the only available point guard off the bench. Despite playing poorly in the minutes he was given (hopefully a temporary wane), the minutes themselves were both heavy and meaningful.
If Rose requires rest during the 2014 FIBA World Cup, it would be smart for Coach K to bring Lillard along. Point guard is already the most stacked position on the team, so he would not have to sacrifice talent in order to have insurance there. Team USA needs to be ready for the very real possibility that Rose will not be able to play in every game.
The next round of cuts to the Team USA roster is expected to come later today. Only 12 spots are available—six if you factor in expected locks (Rose, Curry, Irving, James Harden, Kenneth Faried, Anthony Davis). Lillard is on the bubble of inclusion. He has a reasonable shot at making the team as a failsafe, depending on the fluctuating readiness of Rose’s knees.