Other than the fact that he can't shoot, Derrick Rose looks great. He's running around the court like he didn't take an entire season off. His footwork and athleticism are impeccable. Yes, the 18 months of rust is obvious—Rose is shooting 29 percent over his first two games, and has turned the ball over nine times—but he rendered an ugly statsheet irrelevant with one teardrop.
Rose faced a lot of double teams against Miami, but that excuse evaporated against the Knicks. His 7 of 23 from the field last night was a result of his running into Tyson Chandler nearly every time he attacked the basket, and his long-range jumpers simply not falling—the muscle memory takes a while to come back.
"It’s just the playing again,’" Rose said. "I never play pickup in the offseason. For me to have surgery and still not play pickup, all this my body is just getting used to. For me, all I can do is work my butt off every day and get the most out of every day and just see how far it takes me."
It was Chandler who's kicking himself today despite a 19-rebound evening. The Knicks center went 1-of-2 from the free throw line with 10.8 seconds left to give the Knicks just a one-point lead. Tom Thibodeau said he had three standard out-of-bounds plays to choose from. He went with the one he calls, "Put the ball in Rose's hands."
With Ray Felton on him and Chandler sidling over on the edge of the paint, Rose drove them both, and put up a floater higher than the backboard. No problem. "He just made a big-time play," Chandler said. "I don't know if he saw the basket to be honest with you."
Compare that—a designed play, with the ball-handler actually doing something—with the Knicks' weak answer, the usual long-range Carmelo jumper, and you've got a start on explaining why New York is 1-9 against the Bulls since acquiring Anthony.
But this was all about Derrick Rose, and a homecoming highlight that'll look great in the inevitable Adidas commercial. It's easy to forget 7-for-23 when you win, and win dramatically. And Rose believes this is still just the start. "I know I have had worse shooting nights than that in my career," he told the Sun-Times. "I know I’m going to have a game where my confidence is totally high and it’s going to be scary."