The speed and explosion that characterize Derrick Rose’s game were back on display in one of the most overhyped preseason games in recent memory.
The Bulls defeated the Indiana Pacers 82-76 in their preseason opener, but the final score wasn’t the storyline with Rose returning to action for the first time since Apr. 24, 2012.
Rose scored 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting in almost 21 minutes of action. All five of his makes were in the restricted area and all six misses came from outside of it. His performance both dazzled at times and showed the signs of rust (four turnovers) from a player who hasn’t played in more than a full year. However, he showed no fear in attacking one of the best post defenses in the league and embracing and taking contact. He even got mad at coach Tom Thibodeau because Thibodeau said he would play him eight minutes and he played just under five.
It’s evident that he’s going to need more reps, but for Rose, it’s just good to get back on the floor and competing again.
“I’m just happy to be back playing, man,” he said. “But if anything we got the win. I know it’s preseason, but I haven’t played in a competitive game, an NBA game in a long time, and for us to get this win it not only makes me feel good, but the team feel good about the work we put in during practice and training camp.
“I was able to push the ball the way that I wanted to, put pressure on the defense, and 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.’’
Rose also pulled down two rebounds and handed out three assists. The highlight of the night being his breakaway dunk in the third quarter, pointing to a frantic crowd that showered “MVP” chants during one of his five trips to the free throw line. At time, he moved a bit too quick for himself and not too many opportunities for jumpers opened, but as the game went on, he got more comfortable.
“Well, it was good to have him back, for sure,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I think you see how he makes the game easier for everybody and the speed at which he plays, you’ve got to get accustomed to that, too. So his teammates have to get used to that again. He has to get used to it, but overall, I thought he played very, very well. Some rust, but that’s to be expected. You could see as he each minute went by, he got more and more comfortable, and he ran the team great.”
Thibodeau said prior to the game that he wanted Rose to just run the team, which he did. It was also interesting to see the new ways in which their utilizing him as there weren’t the traditional high screen and rolls that he’s familiar with. The new elements in the offense features read and reaction, similar to the offense of the San Antonio Spurs. Rose screened much more than he has in the past and also was ran off some off-the-ball screens that presented opportunities to catch the ball with a running start and some opportunities for curls for open looks. There’s also more looks like there will be more opportunities for Rose to fill lanes on fast breaks as Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich can push the ball for him.
“For us, it’s kind of new for some guys, but for the guys that have been here, the nucleus for this team, we’re getting used to it. We’re just knocking the rust off right now,” Rose said of the new wrinkles to the offense.
“I love it. We’re moving the ball. We did have some stagnant moments, but this is preseason.’’
Now that the speculation is over and Rose’s first game back is in the books, what’s next for Rose and the Bulls?
“Just build,” Thibodeau said. “Defend, rebound – the turnovers is the big thing. We have to clean that up. You have to eliminate the ways you beat yourself. We were fortunate to win.”
As Rose attacking drives showed on Saturday, some things never change.