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Hometown Davis leads USA past Brazil, but all eyes remain on Rose

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For most athletes, there's no greater feeling and privilege to play in front of your hometown.

You add that with representing your country while doing so, and there might not be a better feeling in the world.

Anthony Davis enjoyed a stellar performance in helping Team USA top Brazil 95-78. The power forward scored 20 points, pulled down eight rebounds and blocked five shots, while altering several others.

It was Davis' first time in front of the United Center crowd as a pro, as his first two trips in his first two seasons in the league have seen him go down with injuries in the game leading up to the matchup with the Chicago Bulls. He grew up just 15 minutes away from the house that MJ built, and he spared no effort in the game.

Even with Davis' impressive performance, it was the other home town crowd that fans came to see.

Derrick Rose hadn't played a game at the United Center in nine months, and judging by the fans reaction to him coming onto the court to warmup, his every make in the layup lines and a standing ovation during a pre-game address to the fans, you can say that he was severely missed.

Rose finished the game with just seven points in 24 minutes, but the points were of the dazzling nature that those familiar with him have come to expect.

There was the coast-to-coast drive with 4.6 remaining that resulted in Rose banking in a runner to end the half. A quick left-to-right crossover, cuffing the ball with his right arm to avoid the defender's swiping hands, and finishing with a lefty reverse to avoid the help defender.

Even his missed breakaway, two-handed dunk put fans in hysterics. Every time he touched the ball, the fans wanted to see the Rose they've come to know -- the guy who has to get his to put his team in positions to win. But they received a more poised player, who just wants to run the team, get guys good looks and take his opportunities when they present themselves.

“When I was out there, (the fans) wanted me to shoot every ball," Rose said. "But I’m playing the way that I normally play in the tryouts—push the ball, play defense and get guys shots. When a shot is available, take the shot. I think that’s what I did tonight. I had one or two turnovers but that can be easily changed.

"I've been preparing for this for a long time," Rose said. "If this was a couple weeks ago I would have been emotional, but right now it feels great. We won the game so that's the only thing I could be happy about. If we had lost, my whole attitude would have been different. Just take this win, go to New York [Sunday] and just try to keep this going."

Rose had three turnovers, along with four rebounds, two assists and a block. While it's evident that the explosiveness and speed hasn't been deterred after back-to-back season-ending knee injuries, there is still some rust that he needs to shake off.

In trying to help accelerate this process, USA Basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski played Rose the entire third quarter after the point guard had to leave the game in the second after sustaining a cut above his left eye. With USA firmly in control in the fourth and 5:20 remaining, Krzyzewski reinserted Rose, which may have been cause for pause by some --giving concerns over Rose's past two seasons and the program going through "interruptions," as Krzyzewski referenced the injuries and Kevin Durant withdrawing last week -- but it's all part to help accelerate his conditioning.

"I wanted to see if he could play beyond,” Krzyzewski said “You know one of the things about bringing a guy back is that if you keep on his minutes, you keep a lid on him and he has to learn to play tired, and again we wanted to see that. He did pretty good.’’

Even with Team USA headed to New York with two exhibitions against the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, before headed to Spain, the eyes and attention will continue to be on Rose.

“For Derrick it’s a step-by-step process," Team USA assistant coach and Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He’s steadily getting better and I think this experience, this is the perfect setting for him. I thought his first experience in 2010 was really the springboard to his MVP season, and it was really positive for him. I know how important it is to him. All summer long I think he’s gotten more comfortable. I think he went through the comeback last year and I think he learned a lot from it. I love the way he’s playing. He’s finding the rhythm of his game, and he’s playing to his strengths.

"He’s still shaking some rust off. His explosiveness is back, he’s playing well on both sides of the ball. I think he’s in a really good place. I think he’s prepared himself extremely well. It’s unfortunate what he’s gone through, but that adversity has made him a lot stronger, and I see a growth for him. I love where he is mentally and physically right now."

The city of Chicago would agree.

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