CHICAGO -- At least one fan didn't get too wrapped up in Derrick Rose's first game at the United Center since tearing his left ACL on April 28, 2012.
That would be Rose's 1-year-old son.
"He's still confused right now when he sees me play on TV," Rose said. "When he sees a poster of me anywhere, it confuses him. I can't wait until the day when he knows I'm actually playing."
The day many local fans couldn't wait for finally arrived Wednesday night. Rose attacked the rim aggressively and explosively and the Bulls downed the Pistons 96-81 to improve to 4-0 in exhibition play.
Rose finished with 22 points and two assists in 22 minutes, continuing the strong play that got derailed briefly when he skipped Saturday's game in Rio de Janeiro with left knee soreness. Rose, who had struggled at the line in his first two appearances, sank 9 of 10 free throws.
And, actually, another person didn't get too wrapped up in the moment either.
"Derrick is the same every day," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He has a poker face."
The game also featured Joakim Noah's 2013-14 debut, Taj Gibson continuing his torrid preseason and a breakout game for first-round pick Tony Snell.
Noah, who missed the first three games with a sore groin, finished with two points and eight rebounds in just fewer than 20 minutes. Thibodeau called his defense "outstanding" and lauded his reaction to the ball.
"Usually, my lungs are bleeding on that first game back," Noah said. "But I actually felt pretty good. I thought my timing was better than it was going to be. Obviously, I have a ways to go. But I felt good out there."
Gibson, whom Thibodeau has called the Bulls' best player in camp, capped his double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds with a thunderous dunk. And Snell, who had missed 11 of 13 shots entering, added 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting.
"I felt more comfortable," Snell said.
But as usual, all eyes were on Rose.
He blew his traditional pregame kiss to his mother, Brenda. He scored on a hanging, left-handed scoop in the lane on the game's first possession. He sank a 3-pointer. He dropped home a basket on an acrobatic three-point play just before the halftime buzzer. He dunked in the second half.
And then he addressed a media throng that was more dynasty-era MJ than exhibition tilt.
"I surprised myself some, going to the lane, getting guys on their heels and really playing through contact," Rose said. "Even though I'm getting hit, I'm finding ways to get through it."
Certainly, there could be more speed bumps along the way, more days where soreness and the common sense management has exhibited thus far prevails and Rose sits. But when he does play, Rose is bearing down on defenses like a locomotive.
"He was aggressive throughout," Thibodeau said. "Basically, we've been seeing that in practice all along. You're starting to see him find some rhythm too, which is good. The moves, the power, the explosion, the change of direction -- that has been there all along. Now he has better balance to what he's doing."
The crowd roared when public address announcer Tommy Edwards used his signature "From Chicago ..." for Rose during lineup introductions. But Rose said he felt no jitters and tried to treat his first home game in more than 17 months professionally rather than emotionally.
"I'm just trying to compete, get better as a leader," Rose said. "Almost every one of these games at home is going to feel like a pro-am game, where every time I touch the ball, it's going to be some excitement. So I just have to get used to it."
That beats last season's alternative.
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