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Bulls teammates say Derrick Rose better than ever

Bulls star Derrick Rose (shooting over Pacers’ George Hill) was 4-for-7 from three-point range scored 32 points 31 minutes Friday.

Bulls star Derrick Rose (shooting over the Pacers’ George Hill) was 4-for-7 from three-point range and scored 32 points in 31 minutes Friday. | Nam Y. Huh/AP

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Updated: November 21, 2013 6:58AM



Bulls star Derrick Rose wasn’t going to get caught up in the 32 points he scored in 31 minutes Friday against the Indiana Pacers. Or in the fact that 10 of those points came in the last 5:50 of the game.

As Rose put it afterward: ‘‘Just trying to keep knocking rust off every night.’’

So he left it to almost everyone around him to get excited about it.

After four preseason games since returning from the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that cost him all of last season, there seems to be very little rust for Rose to knock off at this point.

‘‘Yeah, man, he’s real when he’s out there on the court,’’ swingman Jimmy Butler said Saturday, sounding as though he was still amazed at Rose’s late-game heroics in the 103-98 victory against the Pacers. ‘‘One of the best to ever do it, and just seeing things that he does with the ball, getting guys the ball in the right position to get them their shot. It’s crazy to watch him go to work.’’

Butler then was asked if he thought Rose was all the way back.

‘‘I think he’s all the way back and more,’’ Butler said. ‘‘You see he’s still going to the hole strong, finishing with contact, hitting open J’s, floaters, this, that. The complete package. That’s what he’s doing.’’

But the ‘‘and more’’ Butler was talking about — and what Rose has been dropping hints about since last season — was the outside shot. Rehab from a serious knee injury is monotonous. Part of that process is being limited to shooting jumpers. Over and over again.

‘‘Shoot the rock,’’ Butler said when asked what Rose is doing better than he was before the injury. ‘‘He was out there making shots [Friday] night, right? But, yeah, that’s what he’s been doing, playing basketball. But his jump shot is definitely there.’’

Rose going 4-for-7 from beyond the three-point arc against the Pacers was only the latest evidence of that. His teammates, though, have been seeing it in practice since last season.

‘‘We challenge him in practice,’’ forward/center Taj Gibson said. ‘‘Practice is no walk in the park, I’ll tell you that right now. He understands that we go hard, and we’re throwing different bodies toward him every day. . . . Everybody is challenging him, and he’s making them better at the same time. But I’m not surprised at all with what he did [Friday].’’

Rose had no setbacks with the knee after putting in a preseason-high 31 minutes. He went through the entire practice Saturday.

But as good as Rose looked against the Pacers, coach Tom Thibodeau found something for him to improve on.

‘‘I didn’t like his defense in the first half,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He picked it up in the second half. We have to be a 48-minute team. We’re nowhere near that right now.’’



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