Although Derrick Rose didnt address the media after Monday afternoons Bulls win over the Hawks he reportedly received treatment for his ailing back, then left the United Center his teammates had plenty to say about the reigning league MVPs return to the lineup after a five-game hiatus.
While Roses stat line of 23 points, six assists and five rebounds speaks for itself, the subtleties his presence brings to the table for the Bulls transformed the team from simply a blue-collar group reliant on only defense to win games to a squad with a game-changing player ready to be unleashed if needed.
Having Pooh back, it just opens up everything. He was very aggressive and when hes aggressive like that, it opens up everything for everybody and gives us a lot of confidence, observed Joakim Noah.
Were not going anywhere without that guy. Every game is different. Sometimes theyre going to blitz and trap Derrick. Our game plan changes when they do that. Derricks a great passer. He does a lot of things great, so some games, hes going to attack the rim. Hes going to take whatever the defense gives him and not force the issue or anything like that, so overall, I think having him playing is huge for us.
Carlos Boozer noted that Roses impact on the contest started from early in the opening period, after the Bulls started slowly, and extended through the waning moments of the affair.
Thibs called a great 20-second timeout and Pooh just picked the pace up for all of us. Next thing you know, it was drive to the bucket, and-one, free throws, jump shot. It was awesome to watch, said the power forward. He did the same thing in second half. Came out, was super-aggressive and his scoring ability got everybody in the right spots. His poise down the stretch gave us a great calm out there.
Reserve point guard John Lucas III who played major minutes alongside the superstar in crunch time Monday, but will most likely feel the impact of Roses return the most when backup point guard C.J. Watson comes back to the lineup spoke about how he knew in advance that Rose would be up to speed in his first game back.
Oh, its always good to have our whole team get healthy. Now, we just need to get Rip and well be full strength, but our whole thing is, when Derrick came back, we knew he was going to be ready. We kept telling him, Dont rush. Take your time. We got this. Well hold it down. Take your time because were going to need you in the long run. Right now, just get healthy, because weve got the second half of the season coming up after All-Star break, the diminutive scorer explained. When Derrick steps on that court, hes never tentative. This is what he does, this is what he loves. Even in practice the other day, when we were playing, I didnt want to hit him or bump him, but he was like, No, this isnt how its going to be in the game, so we went all-out. And I was like, Oh, youre ready. Youre going full speed, game speed. Go out there and do what youve got to do.
Thats the one thing thats good about our team. Everybody knows their role. Derrick comes back, that means minutes are going to be cut short for me, C.J., all of us, but were not complaining because we want to win. Thats the biggest thing, winning on this team and were happy that hes back and hes getting healthy. You all just saw a glimpse you all obviously know what he can do full strength but for him missing as many games as he did, it looked like he didnt miss any.
Luol Deng, the Bulls other All-Star, discussed how with Rose back, hes able to shoulder less of a burden as a playmaker and can get back to his traditional role on the team.
Its so much easier, man, with him being back, especially defensively. I really lock in defensively. I know offensively hes going to create for everyone and get everyone shots, he said. Its great. Having him back, I dont have to focus so much on creating and everything else. On offense, just get back to our regular roles, what makes us a great team. Defensively, focusing on hustle plays, rebounding and offensively, some nights theres going to be a lot of scoring from me. Some nights theres not, but thats the role and thats the way we play.
Its good to have Derrick back. Hopefully after the break, Rip will be back. Weve got one more game, Milwaukee, and hopefully from there on out, everyone will be back on the squad, Deng continued. He played well. Hes going to get more comfortable as he plays more, but its really great to have him back and we cant wait to get Rip back also.
Speaking of Hamilton, who Deng and Lucas seemed to be openly pining for, sources tell CSNChicago.com that hell likely return after the All-Star break, either in the Bulls Feb. 28th home game against the Hornets or on their subsequent three-game road trip.
There is also the slim possibility that the veteran shooting guard plays Wednesday against Milwaukee, as hes been increasing his activity level as of late while he recovers from his right thigh and groin injuries, in addition to mourning the passing of his grandmother.
But first things first, lets get back to Rose, who didnt look rusty in the least, though he obviously can raise his game to another level once hes back in the groove. Still, not bad for the first game hes played as Boozer said, Youve just got to keep watching him play, but he was pretty damn good today" when he hasnt looked hobbled since early this month.
His explosion was there. His drives were there," said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. "Conditioning-wise, hes not where he normally is. But thats to be expected. Overall, Im very pleased. He said he felt real good out there. The big thing was making sure he was 100 percent and pain-free. Then he had to be cleared medically. Then he had to feel very good about playing. We went step-by-step with him. He did his rehab. Then we did non-contact stuff. He didnt have problems with that. Then we went to contact and he didnt have problems with that. Who were playing didnt have anything to do with it. He felt he was 100 percent and could go. Well just go from here. He said he felt well out there.
You dont want him to change who he is. Thats the nature of the game. Guys are going to be aggressive and attack. Youre always concerned about health. But a guy could get hurt in practice or shootaround. Thats part of the game. Hes done a good job with his rehab. Our trainers have done a great job with him. We felt comfortable. As long as hes pain-free and feels 100 percent, we felt good with him playing. He met all the criteria that we were looking for him to meet before he played again. So were good with it.