MIAMI -- In the grand scheme of an 82-game season, one game isn't supposed to mean much more than another. That's what coach Tom Thibodeau and his team would like fans to believe, anyway. After getting handled by the Miami Heat on Tuesday night, the message permeating the locker room was the same: This was just one game in a long season.
"For sure, man," Rose said. "It's not the end of the world. This will be easily forgotten. Of course we'll look at film (Wednesday), and (Thursday) we play against another great team."
The Bulls will play against plenty of teams throughout the season -- but there's only one Miami. That's why all the talk about this being just one game sounded hollow late Tuesday night. The Bulls wanted to beat Miami badly and set the tone for the season. Instead, the Heat sent their own message to the Bulls -- a loud and clear one that said: You're still not on our level yet.
"You can just tell by their offensive execution," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "It's very fluid. Defensively, they have a system that's in place. Everybody knows what they're doing."
Then Noah turned almost defiant. He was emphatic that this game would not define his team. He knows that he and Rose still have some rust to shake off, but he is also convinced that the Bulls won't play that poorly against the Heat again.
"I think the potential for us is crazy," Noah continued. "It's tough to lose to this team. We obviously want to beat them. We wanted to ruin their party tonight but it didn't work out that way. Next time we play them, we will play a lot better. We will be a lot better."
Maybe the Bulls will play better. It's hard to imagine a scenario in which they can play much worse in the first half, especially with the foul trouble that Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler dealt with. Just don't buy into the notion that this is just another game in a monthslong stretch. The Bulls know that in order to go to the Finals they'll likely have to go through Miami -- and they were reminded yet again that they just aren't as good as the two-time defending NBA champion.
What's next: The Bulls will practice later today at the Berto Center. It will be interesting to see how much Thibodeau pushes his team after such a poor performance.
Noah returns: Lost in the hoopla of Rose's return was the fact that Noah was on the floor again after missing most of the preseason because of a groin injury. His offensive game looked rusty over 20 minutes of action, but he said he felt fine.
"Physically, I felt good," he said. "Just disappointed a little bit (with) the way we played. Obviously, we want to play better. I think we were a little stagnant offensively, but defensively we didn't do very well either. We weren't all on the same page."
Noah wasn't concerned about Rose's struggles.
"He's going to be fine," Noah said. "I think they did a good job of trapping him on every pick-and-roll, and we have to do a better job of when they're trapping him like that -- it should be easy offense for us, just getting easy baskets because they're doubling him every time he's coming off the pick-and-roll."
LeBron speaks highly of Rose, Bulls: LeBron James and Rose never did get around to that pregame handshake -- but James did seem happy to see the former MVP back on the floor.
"I think he looked like Derrick Rose in the preseason," James said before the game. "He's an unbelievable talent, great point guard, great player."
James also gave Thibodeau and the Bulls a big compliment about their style of play.
"It don't matter who they throw on the floor, you're going to get a battle with them," he said. "No matter if there's no Derrick, no Luol (Deng), no Joakim (Noah), no Taj (Gibson). Whatever. No (Jimmy) Butler. It doesn't matter. Whoever they put out on the floor, Thibs is going to make sure they compete, and we know that. So we don't take them lightly no matter who's in uniform."
The last word: "It's one game. I go to a pickup game sometimes to a YMCA and some guys just kill me. I'm not taking anything away from them again, but it's one game. After 30 games or so, when they're 30-0, I could tell they're better." – Deng