Chicago Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau says it will be a “game time” decision if Derrick Rose plays in tonight’s home opener. Rose, however, has vowed to play in the game.
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Derrick Rose/Bulls Guard
Luol Deng/Bulls Forward
Derrick Rose typically sports a poker face.
But make no mistake: Preseason game or not, the local kid who made good was happy to be playing his first game at the United Center since April 28, 2012, on Wednesday.
“I’m excited to get back on the court in the UC,” Rose said beforehand.
He showed it, aggressively attacking the basket en route to 22 points in 22 minutes as the Bulls downed the Pistons 96-81. Rose got to the line 10 times and added two assists in an impressive return.
Bulls Bowling Party
The Bulls’ 82-76 victory over the Pacers mattered not. Significance came in the form of Rose taking an NBA court for the first time since April 28, 2012, a span of 525 days.
Oh, how he was missed.
“It’s good for the league,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It’s good for everybody. It’s certainly good for our team. He has put a lot of work in.”
Rose finished with 13 points on 5-for-12 shooting, three assists, two steals and four turnovers in 20 minutes, 26 seconds. He didn’t attempt a 3-pointer and came out for good at the 7:07 mark of the third quarter.
But beyond statistics, speed stood out. As did no hesitation, fear or any other worrisome signs from someone who had assured all he had recovered fully from May 2012 surgery to repair his torn left anterior cruciate ligament.
“That’s in the past,” Rose said. “I’m looking to the future.”
Rose showed rust. He came up woefully short on consecutive second-quarter free throws and later committed back-to-back sloppy turnovers, one of which led to a Pacers’ fast-break layup.
But there were more bursts of brilliance. Rose had back-to-back, coast-to-coast drives in the second quarter — one a three-point play — and a third-quarter dunk off a Pacers’ turnover. He also converted a nifty fast-break layup on a feed from Kirk Hinrich.
“You see how he makes the game easier for everybody and the speed at which he plays,” Thibodeau said. “Overall, I thought he played very, very well — the speed, the quickness, the power. That’s what makes him so special and unique. There’s no one like him.”
Rose played 7:02 in the first quarter, 8:31 in the second and 4:53 in the third before lounging on the baseline with ice bags on both knees. He also could be seen stretching while sitting out in the first half, a nod to his new commitment to that discipline.
“I had no doubt; he worked really hard,” Luol Deng said. “I’m happy for him to get his confidence built up. He went through a lot.”
Later, Rose joked about Thibodeau robbing him of three minutes of playing time in the third quarter.
“That’s when I knew we were good,” Thibodeau said with a smirk. “Things are back to normal.”
They were also normal when Rose took a hard foul from Roy Hibbert and bounced right back up.
“That’s the way I’ve been playing in practice, just attacking,” Rose said. “I’m not slowing down. I don’t care who is in the hole. If they’re going to foul me hard, I’m just going to get up and keep going hard at them.”
Beforehand, Rose said he didn’t know how long it would take for him to find his wind. Afterward, he said he found it quickly.
“I was able to push the ball the way that I wanted to, put pressure on the defense,” he said. “It kind of surprised me that I didn’t get winded the whole time I was out there. So I guess I’m steadily building it along the way.”
Taj Gibson’s 18 points and 12 rebounds led the Bulls, who rallied in the fourth quarter even while using a reserve-filled lineup featuring rookies Erik Murphy and Tony Snell while Pacers coach Frank Vogel brought his starters back. Jimmy Butler also looked aggressive with 11 points and six rebounds, including 12 trips to the line.
Rose’s return is why the Pacers’ media relations staff said media credentials rivaled the number for a playoff game, not preseason. It’s why NBA-TV televised the otherwise meaningless contest.
“I feel great, kind of relieved,” Rose said. “I can continue with my training, knowing that I got one game out of the way. And we’re just trying to take it one game at a time, one practice at a time, knowing the number one goal is a championship.”
White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams and Bulls players Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler discuss issues facing the youth in Chicago.
Bulls Head Coach Tom Thibodeau talks about Derrick Rose and the Bulls needs in the offseason.
* The Bulls are 0-7 all-time in best-of-seven series when they trail 1-3, forcing a Game 6 in just two of those seven series (2006-07 vs. Detroit and 2011-12 vs. Philadelphia). The Heat, meanwhile, are 7-0 all-time in best-of-seven series when leading 3-1, and have closed six of those seven series out in Game 5.
* Chicago set franchise playoff records for fewest points in a game (65), fewest points in any quarter (9 in 3rd qtr) and lowest field-goal percentage (.257) in a game in its Game 4 loss to the Heat.
* With one more victory in this series, the Heat will return to the Eastern Conference Finals for a third straight season. The last team to appear in there straight ECF was the Detroit Pistons, who did so in six straight years (2002-03 to 2007-08).
* When Nate Robinson was held scoreless on 0-for-12 shooting in Game 4, he became the first person in the shot clock era to have zero points in any playoff game when having more than 10 field-goal attempts.
* In his last six potential series-clinching games, LeBron James has averaged 28.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.7 assists. The Heat went 5-1 in those contests.
* Dwyane Wade is a game-time decision for Game 5, as he continues to struggle with a sore right knee. Wade is averaging 11.3 points and 4.5 assists per game in this series.
Back in mid-January, following yet another desultory home loss to the Suns, Tom Thibodeau crinkled up his face and offered a quote for the ages about readiness to play.
“If they say we’re playing at midnight on the roof, you should be saying let’s get the ladders.”
As the Bulls trudged off the United Center floor for possibly the last time this season late Monday, 88-65 losers to the Heat, they could’ve added lifeline to ladders on their checklist of things to pack for Miami.
A season filled with pluck and grit gave way to a night of record-setting offensive ineptitude, with a three-game win streak against the defending NBA champions the only possible remedy. The Bulls never have won a playoff series in which they trailed 3-1.
They also never had scored so few points or shot so poorly in franchise playoff history. Their 25.7 percent shooting shattered the previous lowlight of 31.1 percent in the Game 7 Eastern Conference finals loss at Detroit on June 3, 1990. Their previous low of 69 points also came at Detroit in a second-round series on May 5, 2007.