CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose doesn't fully grasp the impact he has on others. The 26-year-old still isn't comfortable with all the attention his game draws. But after scoring 15 of his team-high 29 points in the fourth quarter of the Chicago Bulls' impressive 129-120 comeback win over the Toronto Raptors on Monday night, the former MVP better get used to the accolades again.
Rose, who missed the past two contests because of an illness, has had some nice games over the first month and a half of the season, but none looked quite like this one.
Rose looked like his old self -- the player who took over games consistently -- before tearing the ACL in his left knee in April 2012.
"They were giving me my shot," Rose said of his late-game decisions. "I guess they'll learn. I guess the league will learn."
As much as Rose tried to downplay his night, the boost it gave to his teammates was undeniable. As Rose repeatedly took the ball down the floor and knocked down several jumpers and runners toward the rim, he quietly played it off as if nothing major were happening. But his teammates felt much differently.
Each time Rose sank another jumper or made another play at the rim, the smile on Joakim Noah's face seemed to grow wider. Rose wasn't just making baskets on Monday, he was offering a reminder on how good he and the Bulls can be when they're all healthy.
"It's great," Noah said of watching Rose. "It's good to have him back on the court. Derrick's been through a lot the last couple of years with injuries and just to see him out there competing, he looks like he's having fun playing basketball. It's great. I'm happy. It makes me happy."
Rose's play ignited the sellout crowd and fired up Noah and the rest of his teammates in the process. The Bulls always knew they could be great this season, but that feeling was contingent upon Rose coming back and being close to the same player he used to be. Now that he has shown that swagger and killer instinct late in games again, the confidence within the Bulls' locker room is higher than it has been in years.
"We know that we can always count on him and go to him," Jimmy Butler said. "And that's just the type of guy he is, he wants that pressure, and he produces. He produced. I think we're just going back to him and I think he's going to do the same thing every night."
If he does, and he stays healthy, the Bulls are going to be a scary team once the playoffs roll around. In the meantime, Rose knows that he must continue improving and sharpening his game for when it matters the most. Monday was just one more step in a long process for the humble star.
"I'm fortunate to have the teammates that I have," Rose said. "They really believe in me and they see how hard I work. It's hard being on a team like that, but I'm fortunate, I'm grateful, and I don't take it for granted."
Neither do his teammates. Especially when they see him playing like he did Monday night.