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Derrick Rose is back strong, but a little rusty

Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose center cuts between IndianPacers guard George Hill right power forward David West left first half

Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose, center, cuts between Indiana Pacers guard George Hill, right, and power forward David West, left, in the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game in Indianapolis, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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Updated: November 7, 2013 6:57AM

INDIANAPOLIS — There were moments.

A two-handed dunk off a breakaway, a layup in traffic to draw the foul, the chants of “MVP . . . MVP’’ echoing throughout the visiting arena of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

All reminders of what the hometown kid from Englewood once was 526 days ago.

There was also rust.

Four turnovers, some clumsy ball-handling in traffic, uncertainty with the basketball.

All reminders of what No. 1 still needs to work on before the Bulls tipoff on opening night in Miami.

But Derrick Rose was back on a basketball court Saturday night in the 82-76 win over the Pacers. In uniform and playing in a game for the first time since his left anterior cruciate ligament betrayed him in April 2012.

And the one thing that hasn’t changed? It was all eyes on him, from start to finish.

“Well, it was good to have him back, for sure,’’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I think you see how he makes the game easier for everybody and the speed at which he plays, you’ve got to get accustomed to that, too. So his teammates have to get used to that again. He has to get used to it, but overall, I thought he played very, very well. Some rust, but that’s to be expected.’’

Rose played 20:26, scoring 13 points on 5-for-12 shooting, 3-for-5 from the free throw line, had three assists and then of course, the four turnovers.

But what stood out was the aggressiveness he had, going right at Indiana’s bigs with an almost reckless abandon.

“I’m used to playing aggressive and that’s not going to stop me, me getting fouled or getting the and-one,’’ Rose said. “I’m not slowing down, I don’t care who is in the hole or whatever. If they’re going to foul me hard, I’m just going to get up and keep going hard at them. That’s what I’m trying to get used to.’’

Pacers center Roy Hibbert found that out in the second quarter, as Rose attempted to go right at the rim against him, drawing the foul.

“Again, like we’ve been seeing it in practice,’’ Thibodeau said. “He’s hit the floor, he’s been aggressive and that’s the way he played before the injury and he’s back to playing like that. And for him, that’s his game — the speed, the quickness, but the power to go along with it. That’s what makes him so special and unique. There’s no one like him.’’

As for the knee, Rose called it a non-issue. He said he never thought about it and he claimed his vertical jump is now five inches higher than it was when he first came into the league.

Rose claimed all week that his confidence was at an all-time high, and he played like a guy with no fear.

“I’ve been preparing myself for this moment for a year and a half now,’’ Rose said. “I felt great, felt normal.’’


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