'More than likely, I'll be back': A rejuvenated Derrick Rose eyes return to Bulls
Derrick Rose stood on the sideline, looked out at the United Center court and reacted like he was visiting his childhood home.
"I see the change in everything," the Timberwolves guard said following Minnesota's morning shootaround. "It's brighter in here. That makes the court pop out a little bit more."
Before Wednesday's game began, Rose walked out of the locker room as the national anthem was about to end and let out two screams, one in the hallway and one in the tunnel. A few seconds later, he was introduced, as "from Chicago," for the second time as a visiting player at the UC.
The first time was on Nov. 4, 2016, Rose's fifth game for the New York Knicks. He had 15 points and 11 assists that night to lead the Knicks to a 13-point victory. Since then, Rose left the Knicks, joined Cleveland and seemed headed for retirement after playing just 16 games for the Cavaliers.
But after witnessing Rose's 2010-11 MVP season for the Bulls up close, Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau still believed. Rose might be the league's biggest surprise this season, averaging 18.5 points and shooting 46.9 percent from 3-point range heading into Wednesday's action.
"When he's healthy, he's one of the best players in the league," Thibodeau said. "He's been fairly healthy all season long and I really feel that he's playing at an all-star level."
Rose was on his game Wednesday against the Bulls. His first basket was a crazy one-handed, bad-angle, driving floater with Kris Dunn draped all over him. Rose finished the first quarter with 10 points and 5 assists, and had 16 points by halftime.
This was the version of Rose that might have played in Chicago for 10 more years if he stayed healthy. He still has the speed, but also some veteran savvy. He doesn't have to weave through three defenders and take a hard hit at the basket to score anymore.
"The way I play is the Chicago way of playing basketball -- very physical, one-on-one, I'm going at you," Rose said. "I'm trying to win the game by any means."
Rose's previous career-best in 3-point shooting was 33.2 percent for the Bulls in 2010-11. He does have an explanation for his drastic improvement.
"My heavy ball that I stole from the Bulls three years ago and I didn't get fined for it," Rose said. "So it's a win-win."
Rose heard loud cheers during pregame introductions and whenever he scored. He jogged over to hug Chance the Rapper, who was sitting at courtside, after a second-quarter timeout. He's no longer a Bull, but Rose will always be a Chicago story.
"This is home for me. I'll never leave Chicago," he said. "I still have a place here. I'm always going to have a place here. My son is being raised here. So this is home. I wish I could bring the whole 'hood here. but I could only get 50 (tickets) tonight."
Without being asked, Rose brought up the idea of returning to the Bulls.
"I try to look forward. You never know what my opportunities are going to be this coming offseason with this organization. More than likely, I'll be back. But you never know.
"My attention right now is with this organization I'm with right now. This offseason, you never know what can happen."