If the goal was to turn Derrick Rose's return to the United Center into the least dramatic event imaginable, it was a resounding success.
The buzz would have rattled windows on the West Side if Rose came back from his knee injury late last season. Had he returned in the playoffs against Miami, the foundation for the new Bulls' practice facility might have dug itself.
But Rose waited, made sure the surgically repaired left knee felt right, and made his United Center return at Wednesday night's preseason game against the Detroit Pistons.
Of course, Rose already has played in two preseason road games, so no one was wondering what he'd look like after the 17-month rehab. Rose's return also happened to fall on a traffic-snarl night. So even though the building eventually filled up, it was half-empty when stadium announcer Tommy Edwards shouted out the long-awaited "From Chicago …" introduction.
"I knew people were going to come out and support," Rose said in the locker room. "We knew we had to come out here and play hard and give them something to cheer about."
When the game began, Rose did his part to turn it into a routine yawner. He scored 22 points in 22 minutes as the Bulls rolled past Detroit 96-81. Rose hit 6 of 9 shots and 9 of 10 free throws, with 2 assists and 1 turnover.
He looked great -- pushing the ball often, scoring in every way imaginable. Then again, this was the preseason, working mostly against the smaller Will Bynum and Peyton Siva. The Pistons' starting backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Rodney Stuckey didn't play.
"Even though this is the preseason, we've still got to take all these games serious," Rose said.
On the Bulls' first possession, Rose took a pass from Joakim Noah and finished an easy lane drive. A few minutes later he picked up speed on the break, was fouled by Kyle Singler, and stumbled backward with no damage done.
During his first stint on the court, Rose also blew past Bynum and hit a driving scoop over Greg Monroe. Fouled on a 3-point attempt, he drained all 3 free throws.
Rose really woke up the crowd with 1.3 seconds left in the first half when he crossed over Siva, then cut behind the Pistons rookie and threw in a bank shot with his body parallel to the floor. A foul turned it into a 3-point play.
"I was just trying to really be aggressive," Rose said. "I was just trying to do anything to get to the basket.
"It felt good playing out there in front of my home crowd again. It feels like a pro-am game, where every time I touch the ball, there's going to be some excitement.
"I just have to get used to it, keep the game plan on my mind, and play the way I know how to play."
The Bulls led 55-34 by halftime, and the lead rarely dipped below 20 points in the second half. Rookie Tony Snell had his best game of the preseason, with 12 points and 4 assists. Taj Gibson (11 points, 12 rebounds) and Carlos Boozer (10 points, 11 rebounds) both recorded double-doubles.
After missing three games with a groin strain, Noah got his first chance to play with Rose since the knee injury occurred on April 28, 2012.
"It's good to have the Joker back," Noah said, using his new nickname for Rose. "I think we still have to get better offensively, but having a weapon like that is going to make the game easier for everybody."