CHICAGO — Fans cheered just about every time Derrick Rose touched the ball. They showered him with “MVP! MVP!” chants.
In many ways, it seemed as if he’d never been gone.
Rose scored 22 points in his long-awaited return to the United Center court to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 96-81 preseason victory over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.
The way Rose was dominating, it was hard to believe nearly 18 months had passed since he suited up for a game in this arena. The explosiveness was back after he spent last season recovering from knee surgery, and when he wasn’t finishing drives, the former MVP was hitting his free throws.
As for any emotions? Rose downplayed them.
“Not at all,” he said. “I think I’m past that, jitters and everything. For me, it’s just going out there and trying to compete and try to do better as a teammate and as a leader.”
He got a thunderous ovation during the pregame introductions and proceeded to put on a show, scoring 18 in the first half. He had the crowd chanting “MVP! MVP!” at the end of the second quarter after he froze Peyton Siva with a wicked crossover and flipped the ball in off the glass over Andre Drummond as he crashed to the floor. Rose buried the free throw to complete the three-point play.
Rose hit 6 of 9 shots and was 9-for-10 on free throws over 22 minutes after missing the previous game against Washington in Rio de Janeiro because of soreness in his surgically repaired left knee.