The partial standing ovation came first, coming as Derrick Rose checked in midway through the first quarter Friday night. The "MVP! MVP!" chants came later, and often, as Rose split double teams with regularity and flashed a burst that made the mind wander to days gone by.
Seeing Rose and Joakim Noah embrace in a United Center hallway postgame turned back the clock even more.
"It always put me back in the state of mind of reminiscing. I remember those days," Rose said of the chants. "I had Jo in the building, Joakim. And it’s kind of crazy that I’m on the court and he’s up there with his kid. It’s great to see just being here. It’s like a reunion when I come back here."
Rose's teams had prevailed in his two previous visits here, once with the Knicks and once with the Timberwolves.
"I wish we would’ve got the win," Rose said. "But I felt the love out there. Coming here is always special. Playing here all those years was special. I kind of admit I didn’t cherish the moments that I was supposed to. But you live and you learn. Feeling that energy tonight, it was something to hold on to, for sure."
It's the second straight trip that Rose has been serenaded by the "MVP!" chants.
"He's a legend," Zach LaVine said. "The crowd and city loves him. You respect a dude like that. He’s gone through so much and he’s still at the top of his game. You see how elite he is. Everybody respects him."
That includes Bulls coach Jim Boylen, who called Rose as tough a cover as there is in the league right now.
"Wow," Rose said when relayed that assessment. "I feel I’ve been doing the same thing for the last three or four years. It was going unnoticed. I’m still playing the same way. The only thing changes is I’m knocking down jumpers now and I’m a little bit older."
Indeed, Rose's oldest son ran around the United Center hallways. Noah held his daughter.
Time flies, just like Rose once did. Those high-flying days of his may be gone, but his game remains strong.