Kyrie Irving will start at point guard for Team USA when it plays Finland to open the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup on Saturday, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.
Irving didn't begin Team USA's four-game exhibition tour as the starter. That honor belonged to Derrick Rose, who continues to work his way back from a second major knee surgery. But Irving was tabbed to start Team USA's second exhibition game when Rose sat out due to soreness, and the Cleveland Cavaliers star took full advantage of the opportunity.
2014 FIBA World Cup
Everything you need to know about the tournament
Team USA is the clear favorite, but a slew of other contenders led by host nation Spain will pose stiff challenges at the 2014 FIBA World Cup. Read on for team-by-team previews, a schedule of games and much more.
2014 FIBA World Cup
Irving had 12 points and five assists in a blowout victory over the Dominican Republic, and even though Rose returned against Puerto Rico in the next game, Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski kept his former college point guard as the starter. Irving continued his stellar play and finished the exhibition slate with averages of 10.5 points and 4.3 assists while shooting nearly 64 percent from the field.
Meanwhile, Rose was solid in his return against Puerto Rico, but he was quiet in the blowout win over Slovenia that wrapped up the summer tour. With Rose clearly still shaking off rust as he works his way back from injury, Coach K rewarded Irving by making him the starter to open the World Cup.
But that doesn't mean Rose won't be a major contributor. The Chicago Bulls star has dispelled any notions that he's unhealthy, and he's looking forward to the grind of group play, which includes five games in six days. That type of schedule could be difficult for a player in Rose's situation, and Team USA's coaching staff is sure to be cautious if there are any signs that he's dealing with significant soreness.
Even with some of the questions surrounding Rose, Coach K has talked about the possibility of alternating Irving and Rose as starters as the tournament goes on, according to Stein. That seems unlikely at this point given Irving's recent strong performances and apparent comfort level in the starting lineup, but if Rose can find his groove, perhaps Team USA decides to try that route.
Even if Rose can't find that rhythm, his health is what's most important for him at this point. And no matter what happens with Rose, Team USA has attractive options at point guard. Stephen Curry can play the position as well, and Coach K has the option to mix and match his backcourt. This experience should be beneficial for these young guards, and they'll hope to use it as a springboard for the NBA season.