CHICAGO -- You might never see eye to eye with Derrick Rose, and that's fine. Right now, he's not seeing eye to eye with himself.
That's because Rose's left eyeball currently sits slightly higher than his right. You can see it pretty clearly when you're close to him, along with the dark line that runs along his under eye crease.
Thanks to residual swelling under his eye, after the orbital fracture that limited his preseason to one game, Rose isn't quite seeing right just yet. But Thursday night he was shooting straight.
Rose exploded for 29 points in a 104-98 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was his season-high in points, shots and minutes. He made 12-of-25 shots and hit 5-of-6 from the free throw line. He had seven assists and committed only two turnovers in 37 minutes, 29 seconds.
What was all the fuss about?
For one night, and hopefully a few days after it, people can talk about something other than where Rose might play in 2017 or what he said about future free agency in September. People jump on Rose's statements as if they affect the stock market.
"Sometimes he says crazy s---, gets him in trouble, but I know what kind of competitor he is," Joakim Noah said with a smile.
It's no secret that because of his ultra-conservative approach to his ACL injury in 2013, and the second knee injury that fall, Rose will be under scrutiny the rest of his career as Chicago vacillates on his worthiness as the city's star. All Rose can do is play, and of course he has to play very well, because he has a higher standard -- and salary -- than most to live up to. That's what happens when you were the youngest MVP in league history.
Still, the amount of noise that follows every Rose injury, every bad game and every loose word is a little much.
"I know he doesn't care at all," Noah said. "For me, it bothers me especially for him. I know people don't realize how hard it is to play especially when you go through things like he's gone through, like the injuries he's gone through."
Rose didn't have a sharp start to the season but given the context he missed most of the preseason after getting whacked in the eye during the first practice, it makes sense he had a slow start.
If Rose sat out to rest his eye and build up his wind, he'd be getting killed. But he played through his double vision, struggled, and people started getting jumpy.
Rose said he was limiting his shots (40 in the past four games, after 22 in the opener) because of his eye. His vision is still impaired, but he's feeling more comfortable because of the work he's putting in. But don't think Rose is satisfied after one good game. He has been down this road before.
"No relief, because I know it's a process," said Rose, who coming in had three straight games with single-digit point totals, a first in his career. "As long as I know it's a process, there's going to be ups and downs. Just because there's a high right now, it's not a relief. I still have to work and get the most out of every day."
Rose, who missed 7 of 8 shots to start the game, got the most out of the fourth quarter, scoring 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting to hold off Oklahoma City. Rose continually drove past Russell Westbrook, his summer workout partner, in their first game against each other since 2010 and took advantage of switches when he got Enes Kanter on him. But while his 3-point drought continued (0-for-1 Thursday, 0-for-9 for the season), he was hitting some mid-range jumpers.
"I'm just getting reps up," Rose said. "After I got hit, I had two weeks where I couldn't do anything. I couldn't get my blood pressure up. You just have to sit in the house all day. You can't argue, you can't do anything. You just had to chill."
From what we heard, Rose wasn't very chill at practices leading up to this game. That 25-point smackdown by the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday didn't sit well with this group.
"Practice was a dog," Taj Gibson said. "I was cursing guys out. Jo was cursing guys out. Derrick was cursing guys out. It was good to have guys challenging each other."
Noah was a plus-16 and Gibson was a plus-9 in the first half, and Rose was the only starter with a positive plus-minus (+4). These three, along with Jimmy Butler, the hands-down best player on the team, need to bring that effort on a consistent basis, obviously, for this team to click under new coach Fred Hoiberg.
Butler scored 21 of his 26 points in the first half. Rose said he wanted his backcourt partner to be even more aggressive. Butler went 8-for-20 from the field, hitting 4-of-5 3-pointers. He hit all six of his free throws.
"Jimmy is going to be tough, man," Rose said. "I love the way he's playing. He's picking and choosing his spots. I want him to shoot more, a lot more, but that will come."
See, they're friends!
Rose and Butler combined for 55 points on 45 shots. Pau Gasol was the only other Bull with double-digit-digit points (11) and shot attempts (12). When the Bulls' dynamic backcourt can make their shots, Hoiberg is a genius and the Bulls can work off them.
"He had it going in the second half, I had it going in the first," Butler said. "When I was hot, he continued to get me the ball. Whenever he was, do your thing, brother."
Rose did his thing Thursday and showed everyone he's not done doing it quite yet in Chicago.