BILBAO, Spain -- Derrick Rose quietly reached a milestone here Sunday night when he came off the bench in an otherwise forgettable first half for Team USA against Turkey.
Rose's entrance into the game marked the first time the Chicago Bulls star played in the second half of a back-to-back set since Nov. 22, when his ill-fated appearance in Portland that night came to a halt with Rose suffering the second major knee injury of his short NBA career.
There was nothing close to that sort of calamity against the Turks, but Rose also proved unable to build on the promise of his Saturday night outing against Finland.
In the Finland game, Rose played more minutes (23) than any member of Team USA and had no idea about the achievement until the next day. "Didn't even know until you told me," Rose relayed to ESPN's Bob Holtzman before Sunday's tipoff against the Turks.
But the aggression, spring and zip Rose unleashed against the Finns was never in evidence the next night. His feel and timing were clearly missing, too, landing Rose on the bench for the entire third quarter. He didn't get back on the floor after a rough first half until the United States was safely ahead in the fourth quarter, and he finished with just two points in 17 minutes.
Yet it also must be said that Rose has seemed more at ease since the squad left the United States for Europe. He's facing all the questions about his knees from nosy reporters head-on, even after Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski told ESPN.com last week that he sensed "a part of [Rose] that's like, 'Quit asking me how I feel, I'm good.'"
"I’m just trying to put that behind me," Rose said of any trepidation he's feeling as he ramps up his comeback from the two devastating injuries that limited him to 10 games over the past two seasons with the Bulls.
"I know the questions are going to come and they're going to be there the whole year. So I can’t get tired of it. I’m feeling good right now.
"Just trying to get in better shape, get in better condition, so that when I do need to score the ball, then it’ll be there."
Before the tournament started, Rose likened the prospect of five games in the first six days of the World Cup to an "AAU-type schedule."
Team USA was completely off Monday as all six teams in Group C enjoyed their lone "rest day," as it's called on the schedule. But next up for the residents of Group C is a three-games-in-three-nights stretch, with Team USA scheduled to play New Zealand on Tuesday night, Dominican Republic on Wednesday and Mike Fratello-coached Ukraine on Thursday.
One option, of course, is holding Rose out of at least one of those games to guard against him needlessly overextending himself, especially since the United States is expected to beat all three teams comfortably. Team USA already boasts a 43-point exhibition win from earlier this month over the Dominicans, who beat New Zealand in pool play Sunday. Ukraine, meanwhile, was beaten Sunday by Finland after the Finns had just absorbed a 59-point hammering from Team USA.
"I think we'll have to see," Rose said when asked a few days ago how he expects to cope with the grind of pool play. "I think I’m always staying positive. I know how much work I put into my body and how many hours I stayed in the gym. I’m just trying to stay positive right now and just trying to keep getting my conditioning better."
The NBA's 2010-11 MVP also says he has no issues playing behind Kyrie Irving at the point after it appeared earlier in the summer that he would be a starter for Krzyzewski.
"We have a deep team," Rose said. "And that’s what makes us so good.
"My role is coming off the bench right now. I'm fine with it. I know no second unit can win when I'm on the court or stick me when I'm on the court."
USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo, meanwhile, remains adamant that the Team USA staff is quite comfortable having included Rose as part of its final 12-man World Cup roster, even if he's available to them only as a role player as he works his way back to full speed.
"I think basically we're waiting for Derrick to have kind of a bust-out game," Colangelo said. "And if that were to happen, I think he'd take off from that point."