Denver coach Brian Shaw seemed to make a strategic decision during a late first-quarter time out in Friday's preseason finale at the United Center.
Knowing the positive history Nate Robinson has in Chicago, Shaw chose not to send Robinson into the game during the time out. Instead, the coach waited for action to resume, then made the move. That would presumably lead to a Robinson introduction when he checked in and an ovation from the fans.
It didn't work. While Robinson waited at the scorer's table, the only stoppage came when Ty Lawson shot free throws and that was the guy Robinson would replace. So the quarter ran out and Robinson never got a proper introduction.
Things were quiet all night for Robinson, who went scoreless (0-for-5 from the field) in 25 minutes. He was swarmed and hugged by his former Bulls teammates after the final buzzer.
Meanwhile, the Bulls (8-0) finished off an undefeated preseason by rallying to beat the Nuggets 94-89. Carlos Boozer scored 24 points, including a couple of late baskets off passes from Derrick Rose, while Luol Deng added 23.
Before the game, Robinson talked about returning to Chicago after that single, eventful season with the Bulls.
"It's something special for me, just because of the season from last year and what we did," he said. "It was a very special season, great group of guys. I miss it. I'd be lying if I said I didn't."
Despite the disappointment of not being invited back this season, Robinson was diplomatic about his departure. The Bulls didn't have much money to spend on free agents and chose to go with veteran forward Mike Dunleavy.
"This is a business. Everybody knew I wanted to come back, but they had other things in mind," Robinson said. "They signed a great shooter in Dunleavy. They've got a good rookie (Tony Snell). They've got a great team. Plus, they've got D-Rose coming back. Why have Nate Robinson when you have D-Rose? I know that's been the talk around the league: Pooh's back healthy, looking good. He's the man and that's how it should be."
Rose (15 points, 8 assists) finished the preseason averaging 20.7 points and 5.0 assists.
and shooting 47.6 percent from the field.
Still, Rose and Robinson in the same backcourt would have been interesting. Maybe a second scorer is what the Bulls need to reach the Finals.
"It definitely would have been scary," Robinson said of playing with Rose. "You never know, anything can happen (in the future)."
Robinson is still tight with his former teammates. He had dinner with Jimmy Butler on Thursday and got a special gift from Carlos Boozer on Friday afternoon.
"Booz bought me some cupcakes," Robinson said. "I always used to make cupcakes for the team, so he bought me some cupcakes. He said he had a surprise for me. I told him I hate surprises. It's just good to see the guys. They still love me as a teammate and that's good to know."
Coach Tom Thibodeau fulfilled his promise to play a regular-season rotation in this one. Jimmy Butler played 37 minutes, Boozer 36, Deng 34 and Rose 33. Boozer played the entire second half.
The Bulls fell behind by 19 points in the second quarter, outscored the Nuggets 36-18 in the third and took a brief 9-point lead. With two minutes left, the score was tied 85-85 and the fans got to see Rose battle Robinson down the stretch.
Rose (15 points, 8 assists) got it done with two nice passes to Boozer. His dunk off a Rose drive and dish put the Bulls ahead 90-87 with 22.1 seconds left.
Rose finished preseason averaging 20.7 points, 5.0 assists and shooting 47.6 percent from the field.
"My hard work's paying off," Rose said after the game. "I'm still not in my groove yet and I'm still able to go out there and control the game a little bit. I guess when I get back to my groove, it's going to be scary."