NEW YORK -- After flirting with taking 13 or even 14 players to Spain for an extra week of evaluation, Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski has announced that only 12 players will be on Saturday afternoon's flight to Europe for the FIBA World Cup.
Following Friday night's 112-86 exhibition cruise past Puerto Rico at Madison Square Garden on Team USA's last night on U.S. soil, Krzyzewski explained: "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."
That means Krzyzewski and Team USA chairman Jerry Colangelo must release four players Saturday morning before the group boards its charter plane to Spain, with the identity of one of them already known. Sources familiar with USA Basketball's thinking told ESPN.com late Friday that Gordon Hayward has been informed that he won't make the final 12-man roster.
Hayward would have found out Saturday like the other three players who will ultimately be left home, but sources say that the Utah Jazz swingman asked team officials directly when it became apparent that he had fallen behind others in Team USA's wing rotation and had his fears confirmed.
Damian Lillard, DeMar DeRozan and Andre Drummond, like Hayward, are the others who didn't play a single second against Puerto Rico. Krzyzewski used exactly 12 of the 16 players he had in uniform, which would appear to make the math rather simple.
Yet Krzyzewski cautioned that jumping to conclusions was dangerous, presumably because DeRozan played so well in both of the exhibition games in which he did get playing time, while Lillard could conceivably leapfrog the likes of Chandler Parsons or Kyle Korver if the Team USA coaching staff feels it needs an extra point guard as Derrick Rose insurance.
Any doubts about Rose's participation, however, appeared to be squelched by Krzyzewski at 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 Kyrie Irving, Krzyzewski capped a week of coast-to-coast fretting about the court time Rose missed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday by declaring: "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, will be a "huge, huge help for him."
Final 12-man rosters for the World Cup aren't due until Aug. 29 -- on the eve of the tournament's opening day -- but bringing only 12 players overseas would finally tone down some of the drama that has enveloped this group throughout a chaotic two months in which Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Russell Westbrook all withdrew from participation before Paul George suffered a catastrophic compound leg fracture Aug. 1 in an intrasquad scrimmage.
Losing all those big names, Krzyzewski says, has forced Team USA to "develop a new chemistry" in short order. It's a process that will continue throughout each of the Yanks' five games in pool play in Group C, but Irving, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kenneth Faried and Anthony Davis seem to have cemented themselves as starters, while Klay Thompson and Durant's replacement, Rudy Gay, have unexpectedly emerged as trusted members of Krzyzewski's so-called core group along with Rose and former Duke center Mason Plumlee.
"Rudy keeps getting better," Krzyzewski said of the player who had a minor role on the 2010 World Championship-winning squad but didn't join this team until mid-August.
Mercurial big man DeMarcus Cousins, Gay's Sacramento Kings teammate, also expressed supreme confidence Friday night that he has made the cut, telling reporters: "I've [already] gotten my feedback" from Krzyzewski and his staff.
"Y'all will see," Cousins said.
That would appear to leave just two spots open, with Parsons and Korver -- both of whom played briefly Friday night -- trying to hold off DeRozan and Lillard. But Krzyzewski insisted that nothing was official until the staff could gather for one more late-night huddle behind closed doors at the team hotel to come to a consensus.
"It's a collective decision, and Jerry puts the final stamp on it," Krzyzewski said.