INDIANAPOLIS – The Eastern Conference became a lot more interesting after Derrick Rose’s successful return to the Chicago Bulls.
The former league most valuable player scored 13 points in 20 minutes in an 82-76 exhibition victory over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.
“Same old Derrick Rose,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said of the point guard. “He looked great.”
Rose led the Bulls to the No. 1 seed in the East two seasons ago before he tore his left ACL during the playoffs in April 2012, then missed all of last season while recovering. He said he had some nerves Saturday that quickly went away.
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“I felt great,” Rose said. “I felt normal, I felt the way I’ve been playing in practice. I’m just trying to get my timing back.”
He was at his lightning-fast best against the Pacers in the exhibition opener for both teams, breaking away for several layups and converting a steal and dunk in the third quarter. He appeared unafraid of contact, constantly challenging Indiana’s large front line.
“That’s the way he played before the injury, and he’s back to playing like that,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “And for him, that’s his game. The speed, the quickness, the power to go along with it — that’s what makes him so special and unique. There’s no one like him.”
Rose committed four turnovers. He said he was going too fast, and his coach agreed.
“The speed at which he plays, you’ve got to get accustomed to,” Thibodeau said. “His teammates have to get used to it again, and he has to get used to it. But, overall, I thought he played very, very well.”
Indiana’s Danny Granger returned after missing most of last season with a left-knee injury. He finished with six points on 2-for-10 shooting in 29 minutes.
“He was a little rusty, and I wouldn’t expect anything but that,” Vogel said. “His game condition is in the final part of his recovery.”
Taj Gibson had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulls.
Paul George and David West each scored 14 points and Roy Hibbert added 11 points and nine rebounds for the Pacers.
Rose, 25, sat on the bench praying in the moments before the opening tip and had some contact early in the game.
“They hit me in practice,” Rose said. “I’m used to getting hit now. Falling, slipping — I got that out of the way.”
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Ex-Washington State standout Klay Thompson led the Warriors with 26 points on 11-for-18 shooting.
• Anthony Morrow scored 26 points as the visiting New Orleans Pelicans beat Houston 116-115. Center Dwight Howard, a Laker last season, made his exhibition debut for the Rockets and had 19 points.
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