Bulls guard Derrick Rose was on the flight to Spain on Saturday, named as one of the 12 finalists for Team USA as it pursues the FIBA World Cup.
It’s a nice way for Rose to leave his NBA troubles behind for the next three weeks. But make no mistake, at some point when the flags are done waving and the medals are handed out, he’ll have to come back to a reality that just got more serious, as the long-awaited deal to team Kevin Love with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Cleveland was made official.
The Minnesota Timberwolves received Cavaliers No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, as well as 2013 top pick Anthony Bennett, along with veteran forward Thaddeus Young from Philadelphia, while the 76ers received a 2015 first-round pick, guard Alexey Shved and forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute from the Timberwolves.
The big winners were the Cavaliers, who, by landing Love, instantly become formidable foes for Rose and the Bulls for Eastern Conference supremacy.
Not that Rose didn’t see it coming. After the Bulls fell short in their pursuit of a Love trade earlier this summer, the Cavs were long-rumored to be the front-runners.
‘‘That’s a great move getting a player like K-Love,’’ Rose said last week. ‘‘He’s very, very skilled to be a big. I work out with him every summer. I didn’t work out with him this summer. But every summer I’ve been in the league, I’ve worked out with him in the offseason.
‘‘I’m just happy he gets an opportunity to play somewhere and actually play and feel good about playing and win. I think that he deserves it. I think they should have a great team.’’
Rose knows first-hand that the Cavaliers at least have an up-and-coming point guard in Irving, whom he has seemed to face off with since stepping on the floor in Las Vegas for Team USA’s early trials. Whether it’s been in scrimmages or intrasquad games, Rose vs. Irving has been a true one-on-one battle worth the price of admission.
Early on, it was Rose dominating. Not so much the last 10 days, however, with fatigue costing Rose a few practices and an exhibition game against the Dominican Republic and Irving feeling more confident in dealing with Rose, at least on offense.
Rose has been taking notes for when Irving is back in a rival uniform.
‘‘Not only on him, but everybody,’’’ Rose said. ‘‘I mean, we’re competitors. We look at each other’s games to see what strengths are, weaknesses are, and of course you’re going to use them during the season.’’
Unfortunately, exposing Irving is just one layer when it comes to outlasting the new-look Cavs in the postseason.
Asked about having James — arguably the best active NBA player — back in the division this season, Rose said he’ll approach him ‘‘the same way I would if anyone else was in my division.’’
‘‘Just because it’s him, it’s going to get me to play even harder,’’ Rose said.