If the preseason can now be regarded as a long-ago mirage and Tuesday’s regular-season opening loss in Miami is seen as a disaster, then for Derrick Rose, Thursday’s Bulls’ home opener was something of a middle ground.
Perhaps that’s why he seemed so nonplussed about hitting the game-winning shot, with 5.7 seconds left, to propel the Bulls over the Knicks, 82-81, at the United Center, thrilling his hometown fans, who suffered through his 7-for-23 shooting night.
“It felt good. I missed enough damn shots the whole night. For me, I’m used to those situations. That’s why I work so hard and I’m not going to continue missing the shots that I’m missing. I work too hard,” he explained. “I just work too hard, man. I just know it’s going to be scary when all those shots are falling, so for me, I can’t think about that. I’ve got to have quick amnesia and they were giving me shots. I’m not going to continue missing those shots at all.”
[RELATED: Rose's game-winner beats Knicks]
On the heels of the Bulls’ disappointing outing in Miami, in which his exhibition-campaign accuracy betrayed him, it would have been almost too much to bear to see Rose play the fall guy as the home team surrendered what was a double-digit lead entering the fourth quarter, as missed shots and turnovers plagued him down the contest’s stretch run.
But after committing two turnovers and missing a layup—albeit with plenty of contact, uncalled by the game officials, as was the pattern for most of the evening—the former league MVP had no hesitation when launching a baseline runner over both his man, Knicks point guard Raymond Felton, and 7-footer Tyson Chandler, to give the Bulls the final lead of the night.
“That’s what builds your resume. That leaves a mark on your legacy and I want to be known as one of those players,” he said. “I just love being in that position. Being in the fourth quarter, having the ball in my hands, making all the decisions, I think is just going to groom me into a better player, so that in the playoffs, we’re used to it and later on, we just get used to being in those type of games.
“I’m not going to continue to stop shooting. I’m going to continue to shoot shots that they give me and play my game. But I can’t get down on missing shots. That comes with the territory of being in the position,” Rose continued. “I can’t think like that. When it is my time in the fourth quarter, I can’t shy away from shots. That’s why I was mad with myself when I passed that ball, when they had that possession again. When I’m in that position, I’ve got to make a great play to one of my teammates or I have to get at least a shot off. So it’s a learning experience for me and just still trying to get a rhythm.”
It was the type of shot that a superstar makes, that a losing coach can only compliment—especially given his squad’s ultimately-failed comeback effort—in the end.
[GIF: Rose floats one over Knicks' defense for the win]
“Rose hit a hell of a shot, a runner on the baseline, which was a tough shot over Tyson,” Knicks head coach Mike Woodson said. “Derrick Rose is a great talent, man. He causes problems for every team in this league based on his strength, his speed and ability to run his ball club. The play he made, I haven’t seen too many plays, running baseline, pulling up for a four-foot runner over a 7-footer. So it was a tough shot that he made. If he misses that, we might secure the rebound and be singing a different tune tonight.”
Now, New York did have an opportunity to win it, on a Carmelo Anthony jumper, then a Tyson Chandler attempted tip-in at the buzzer. But it wasn’t to be. Not on a night when Rose made sure his official homecoming ended like it did in the movies.
Teammate Joakim Noah summed up what not just the Bulls, but how Chicago felt about the way the night ended.
“It was special. For Derrick’s homecoming, for him to hit the game-winner, I know it’s special for him, but it’s special for us, too,” the All-Star center said. “It’s been a long year-and-a-half and to have him back is huge.”