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Rose's return brings confidence to Bulls locker room

"He's back, man," Jimmy Butler said of Bulls star Derrick Rose. "He's feeling good. He's confident." Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose didn't speak to the media after his latest return Monday night. He didn't have to.

The former MVP let his game do all the talking.

Rose scored 11 points in 14 minutes in the Chicago Bulls' 85-81 loss to the Washington Wizards, but, much more important for the Bulls, he looked aggressive going to the rim and played with the type of movement that defined his game before the ACL injury he suffered in April 2012.

So how did Rose's teammates think he looked?

"Like Derrick," Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler said. "Doing what he does, make the game look effortless and scoring the ball, getting up and down. It's good to have that guy back."

That was the prevailing thought in the Bulls' locker room. His teammates know the 26-year-old still has plenty of rust to shake off, but they got a huge boost from just having the guard back on the court. They know how much space Rose can create on the floor and they understand how much his presence means to the city and the organization. The fact Rose played well in his first game back was another plus in the equation.

"I think he played really well," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "I think he's moving really well and that's really good for us. I think he's taking it step by step. His mentality is really good. It's where it needs to be."

Rose hit a couple of floaters and then knocked down a 3-pointer during his first-half stint. That last had to feel particularly special given how much he struggled with his shot during the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain last month. Rose hit the practice court hard as soon as he returned from helping Team USA win the gold medal. He was frustrated with the way he'd been shooting and wanted to fix things quickly.

"It's basketball," Butler said. "You have off nights sometimes, but people are going to overexaggerate everything anyways. But he's back, man. He's feeling good. He's confident."

For the Bulls to win this season, Rose has to stay healthy. It's a fact everyone at the United Center understands -- and one his teammates aren't running away from. But the confidence that Rose is once again developing in his game is permeating throughout the city. The players feel it, and they know they're going to get better and better because of it.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau wasn't sure late Monday night if Rose would play Tuesday on the road against the Detroit Pistons on the second night of a back-to-back set. As much as Thibodeau wants Rose to continue to play to get back into a rhythm, the veteran coach knows he needs to tread cautiously with Rose's fragile health. Whether Rose ends up playing Tuesday doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of the season, though. The Bulls must keep their eyes on the prize, and they have to be happy that Rose took another of the thousands of baby steps on his journey back to prominence.

"Derrick did a good job," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "Derrick was trying to get back into rhythm, played his game. Came out early, set the tone early, had good touch on the ball, and did a good job."

Thibodeau loves to say that every game counts whether it's in the preseason or not. Every game reveals something about a team. Well, Monday's game revealed the best news of all for the Bulls. Rose appears to be healthy and is showing signs of becoming the player he once was. In that regard, the scoreboard didn't tell the whole story Monday. The Bulls should chalk this night up as a win.