Rajon Rondo thinks he's on the bubble
ATHENS, Greece -- Somebody is going to get cut from Team USA after Wednesday night's exhibition game against Greece, and Rajon Rondo has no illusions about where he stands.
"I think I'm on the bubble," Rondo said Tuesday. "Just looking at the obvious -- I got a DNP last game. That pretty much speaks for itself."
After losing his job as the starting point guard to Derrick Rose last weekend in Madrid, Rondo's stock has fallen to the point where it now appears he is third on the point guard depth chart behind Rose and Russell Westbrook.
But Rondo is not the lone player on the bubble, a fact Danny Granger acknowledged.
"I just think it really depends on what the coaches want from the team," Granger said at the OAKA Arena after the American team practiced in the very same building where the 2004 Olympic team received their bronze medals. "If we take more of a defensive approach, I could be [on the bubble]. If we take more of an offensive approach, then it's different. It just depends on what they want to do."
Coach Mike Krzyzewski said he will go with the same starting lineup against Greece that he used in Sunday's one-point victory over Spain, using Rose at the point, Chauncey Billups at shooting guard, Kevin Durant at small forward, Andre Iguodala at power forward and Lamar Odom at center.
Coach K also said he would try to give all 13 players some playing time, as long as circumstances permit it.
When pressed on who may or may not be on the bubble, Krzyzewski gave a very strong indication that Stephen Curry is not.
Just looking at the obvious -- I got a DNP last game. That pretty much speaks for itself.” -- Rajon Rondo
"It's not so much what Rajon has to show, it's what our team needs. We've found a good lineup, and the international game is so different from the NBA game, you can ask any of these guys," Krzyzewski said. "Part of it is to make sure that we try not to have two non-shooters out on the court, and there's the physicality, too.
"Derrick right now being with Chauncey is a good [combination], and Stephen, he provides a different thing, because if they are going under [screens] and they keep going under on him, then he has a 3. So it forces another team to change the way they defend our team. So it's things like that, and how we feel strategy-wise what'll be best for the team."
Rondo played poorly (1 of 4, two points, one assist, four turnovers) in the Americans' game against Lithuania on Saturday in which they failed to establish a fast pace and scored just seven points in the first quarter. Rondo and Tyson Chandler were replaced by Rose and Odom in the starting five the following night against Spain.
Rondo's knack for rebounding works in his favor, but his inability to consistently hit jump shots and free throws -- he was 5 of 19 (26 percent) in the NBA Finals -- are two of the factors working against him.
Another is the team's lack of size.
Odom, Chandler and Kevin Love are the only players who play power forward or center on their NBA teams, which has forced the Americans to use Granger, Rudy Gay, and Iguodala at the 4 spot from time to time.
Also, despite the fact that Billups and Curry are playing at shooting guard, both are the primary ballhandlers on their NBA teams, as are Rose, Westbrook and Rondo. And a team with five point guards (along with a sixth guard in Eric Gordon, who has been one of the most consistent players in practice) could be viewed as a team with a key structural flaw.
"I'm confident," said Love, who sat out Sunday night's game against Spain after sustaining a mild concussion the previous night against Lithuania when he tried to draw a charge and banged the back of his head against the floor. "I've been playing well in practice. I'm just hoping I get the opportunity, but I know there's a lot of great players that have a chance to make the [last] spot."
"But as far as the front line, I think a lot of people are saying we're thin. Even the coaches are saying that," Love said.
Whoever gets cut will be notified late Wednesday night after the game against Greece and will be given a one-way plane ticket back to the United States. The remaining 12 players will travel on to Istanbul, where Team USA opens play in the World Championship on Saturday night against Croatia.
"It's what's best for the country," said Rondo, who said his DNP-CD (did not play -- coach's decision) Sunday was his first since his rookie NBA season. "It's part of it. We knew coming in it was still tryouts until we make the team that goes to Turkey."
Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN.com.
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