Regular season home openers always produce a great energy in the arena, but Thursday night at the United Center was especially significant. The Madhouse on Madison was a spectacle to say the least, as Chicago native Derrick Rose and by default one of the city’s saviors, made his regular season home debut, more than 500 days since he tore his ACL back on April 29, 2012. He made his homecoming a memorable one, nailing one of his patented floaters with 5.7 seconds remaining to push his Chicago Bulls to an 82-81 victory over the New York Knicks.
“I knew it had a good chance [to go in]. I got enough arc on it and it fell through,” said Rose after the game.
“It was special,” added Bulls center Joakim Noah. “It’s always special when we play the Knicks. For Derrick’s homecoming, for him to hit the game-winner, I know it’s special to him and it’s special to us too. It’s been a long year-and-a-half and to have him back is huge.”
Rose’s highly anticipated return – after controversially sitting out all of last season – got off to a sluggish start. Despite a healthy standing ovation when he was announced during the starting lineups, the 2011 MVP opened the game showing signs of heavy rust with forced shots and over-penetration culminating in 2-for-9 first quarter shooting. At the time he got the ball for the game-winner, he was 6-for-22. His regular season opener earlier this week in Miami didn’t fare much better; Rose finished that game with 12 points on shooting 4-for-15 from the field as the Heat crushed the Bulls 107-95.
“He showed a lot of toughness,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “It was a struggle early on in the game, then he sort of found his way at the start of the third. That got him a little rhythm going. But he has a lot of confidence, and he had the courage to take – and make – on the last play.”
Thibodeau knew better than to doubt his star player, regardless of how long it’s been. “I’ve been around him long enough and he’s won enough games for us. The only way he’s gonna get there is to let him do it and trust that he’ll make the right play. He shot the ball very well in the preseason. We had a tough outing in Miami. Yesterday and today he was sore. He loosened up before the game and found his way at the end. He’ll be fine. There’s gonna be some bumps but he’s got a lot of toughness.”
Rose wasn’t short on self-confidence either. He never is.
“That’s my first floater, I think, in the whole season. It felt good,” he said. “I was missing those shots all night. For me, I’m used to those situations – that’s why I work so hard. I’m not going to continue missing the shots that I’m missing. I work too hard. It’s going to be scary when all those shots starting falling. I can’t think about that [missing shots]. I have to have amnesia. I’m not going to stop shooting, I’ll continue to shoot shots that they give me and play my game. I can’t get down on missing shots because that comes with the territory being in this position. There’s no pressure. If you’re gonna miss the shot, you’re gonna miss it; if you’re gonna hit, you’re gonna hit it. I just love taking it because there’s nothing like building up your resume.”
Rose finished the game with 18 points, six rebounds and three assists, and his game-winner is a good sign for Bulls fans as “The Return” is finally official.
Image: Chicago Bulls