CHICAGO -- Vinny Del Negro stood at the center of the usual pre-game press gathering on Wednesday night and pondered a question that he never had to think about before: The Bulls knew how to stop Ben Gordon, right?
"No", Del Negro replied, causing an awkward chuckle from the assembled press corps. "Ben's an excellent player. We know that. And he can score the basketball. He does a lot of good things on the court. But, it's a team defense. We got to get up on him. We know he can shoot the ball. We got to make him put it on the ground. Our rotations have to be good -- our transition defense and turnovers and just playing sound tonight is going to be very key for us."
Del Negro must have been pleasantly surprised after the game considering the Bulls basically shut Gordon down. He missed 10 shots and managed only 18 points on the night. In truth though, Del Negro knows his team caught a break. Gordon wasn't close to 100 percent after missing the past two games with a sprained ankle.
"There's no question he was hobbling a little bit with the ankle tonight," Del Negro said. "You could see that, but coming back here I'm sure he wanted to play well and didn't want to miss the game. But Ben can put the ball in the basket we know that. And he can do it in bunches, so were fortunate we were had a good enough lead at the end there."
What was far more surprising to some in attendance was the way Gordon was received when he came into the game for the first time. The shooting guard who made a name for himself during five years in Chicago was getting booed by the same people who used to adore him.
Sure, some people cheered, but the boos picked up a little more throughout the game. They didn't like it that the shooting guard signed a big free agent contract with the Pistons over the summer.
"It was kind of weird a little bit," Joakim Noah said of the reception the fans gave his former teammate. "I thought he would get a little more love than that, but it is what it is. I think he's definitely someone that did a lot for this ballclub, who brought a lot of happiness in this building. But at the same time, fans will be fans."
Gordon knows that, but you've got to think it still bothered him a little bit.
"It was boos so I wasn't surprised," he said. "I kind of expected that, seeing past players come back after going to another team. It is what it is. It's not like I won the championship while I was here or anything. I just had a couple good years so I wasn't surprised at all."
Despite the boos, there were people at the United Center who were excited to see the former Bull.
"Me personally, I was happy to see him before the game and after the game," Noah said. "He's somebody I had a lot of fun with while playing with him. I appreciate everything he did for this organization. And that playoff series [against Boston], obviously meant a lot to me personally. I really appreciate being a part of that. He was a big part of it and it was just good to see him."
For his part, Gordon didn't sound very emotional about the homecoming.
"I had already moved forward," he said. "This was just another game for me. It wasn't really that big of a deal. I moved on a long time ago. I have no bitter feelings towards the Bulls. I did what I had to do. It's just part of the business."