CHICAGO – After two quarters of Team USA's exhibition against Brazil, Derrick Rose had made only one shot. He'd also missed a wide-open, two-handed dunk. Doubts likely had begun to fill the heads of Chicago Bulls fans.
But with 3:34 left in the third quarter, Rose crossed over Brazil's Raul Neto, jumped in the lane off his oft-troubled left knee, switched hands in the air with the ball and scored on a pretty lay-in over Anderson Varejao. The U.S. players on the bench jumped up in excitement.
Bulls fans had reason to be confident Rose had returned to form during this exhibition at his home arena.
"I just saw an opening and I went for it," Rose said. "I'm used to people cheering, so I didn't let it get to me or anything like that. It's just me playing how I normally play."
Rose had seven points, four rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes during his homecoming in USA Basketball's 95-78 victory over Brazil in their first exhibition game in preparation for the upcoming World Cup in Spain. The Bulls point guard has played in only 10 NBA games the past two seasons because of various injuries, including two major knee surgeries. This exhibition was the first game in the United Center for the Chicago native since Nov. 18.
Anthony Davis, another Chicago native, had 20 points, eight rebounds and five blocks for the U.S. while James Harden added 18 points. Still, the night belonged to Rose, who received strong cheers from the time he was introduced last in introductions to the end of the exhibition. The 2011 NBA MVP also received a roar from the crowd when he addressed the fans before the game.
"That was huge. I was surprised I didn't get nervous out there," Rose said.
In his pregame address, Rose also encouraged fans to help stop the violence in Chicago's streets.
"What's going on here is bigger than basketball and is bigger than one person trying to do something," Rose said. "It's kind of messed up. It's kind of on the system. The only way we can change it is if all of us change it and people change their mindsets."
Rose appeared jittery when the game began. He went scoreless in the first five minutes before being replaced. He missed a wide-open two-handed dunk with 7:37 remaining in the second quarter.
"That's my second missed dunk of this whole tryout," Rose said. "I missed one in practice, too. Just got to get used to the [international] ball."
U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski put Rose back in with four seconds left before the half. Rose took the in-bounds pass, raced down the floor and made a floater just before the halftime buzzer for his first field goal of the game.
"I thought James Harden was going to have a shot, but no one helped on defense so I had a clear lane for a floater," Rose said.
Said Varejao: "It's great to see him back. It's going to take him some time to get back to the player he was before, but I wish him good luck."
Any worries about Rose came to an end when he made an acrobatic layup with 3:39 left in the third quarter to give the U.S. a 62-53 lead. The sold-out United Center crowd, which included Hall of Famers Scottie Pippen and Mitch Richmond, heralded rookie Jabari Parker and the rapper/actor Common, roared its loudest for Rose after that move.
"All summer long I think he's gotten more comfortable," said Bulls head coach and U.S. assistant Tom Thibodeau. "He went through the comeback last year and learned a lot from it. I love the way he's playing. He's finding the rhythm of the game and he's playing to his strengths."
Reggie Rose, Derrick Rose's brother and personal manager, said: "It meant a lot to see him out there and see the crowd give him that ovation. You can tell after not being in the United Center for a long time he had a little jitters at first. But he came to himself after that."
Rose played the entire third quarter because Krzyzewski wanted to test him. With about 5:30 left in the fourth quarter and the U.S. victory secure, the crowd began chanting, "We want Rose! We want Rose!"
"I have been preparing for this for a long time," Rose said.
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