COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The most noticeable part of Derrick Rose's 30-point explosion was the impact it had on the rest of his teammates. The Chicago Bulls lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night, but you wouldn't have guessed it from the smiles that lit up their faces while they talked about Rose performing at the highest level again. They watched as Rose drove to the rim and knocked down jumper after jumper in the first half. They nodded in appreciation as Rose's cuts opened up the floor for everybody else. This was the man they've been waiting to see, waiting to play with since Rose tore the medial meniscus in his right knee. This is the man who can lead the Bulls to a championship. Most importantly, this is the man who gives them hope.
"It [brought] up old memories, man," Bulls power forward Taj Gibson said happily. "Just a good positive thing to take from this game. Derrick looked great."
For the first time in almost a year, Rose looked once again like the player he used to be before his initial ACL injury in the first game of the 2012 playoffs. He looked like the type of player who could put a team on his back and carry it to a different place. For the Bulls, watching Rose dominate offensively was like watching an old favorite movie for the first time in a while. His play brought up the confidence level of everybody around him.
"You're talking about an MVP-caliber player," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "So it makes the game easy for everybody. He's getting easy baskets in transition, he's attacking in the pick-and-roll, he's in the paint making plays, so it's a positive."
It's also a large negative for the rest of the league if Rose can continue turning back the clock like this. While there is no such thing as a statement game in October, Rose offered up a large reminder to LeBron James and the rest of the league that he and the Bulls are going to be a force in the Eastern Conference if they can stay healthy.
Rose didn't want to come out and say this was his best preseason game to date, but it was obvious after listening to those around him speak: This wasn't just Rose's best game in the preseason, this was Rose's best game in a while. He wanted to send a message to James and Kyrie Irving, the player who started ahead of him on Team USA this summer, that he can still be the dominant force he used to be.
"The team is feeling more comfortable with me being on the floor," Rose said. "Feeling comfortable with me just picking my spots, getting people involved and just trying to pick spots in the game where I can really affect the game."
Rose is such a transcendent talent, and so important to the Bulls' future, that he has the ability to affect more than just the game. On this night, he affected the entire organization's mood. The relief from Bulls personnel throughout the building was palpable. This was the man they hoped they would see again. This is the man who can deliver them to where they want to go.
"It feels great," Bulls center Joakim Noah said of Rose's performance. "Just seeing him move like that is big for our team. He's definitely one of our big guns -- he's our big gun -- so just to see him play like that, I know how hard he's worked to get there. I just feel like if we just keep improving we can do something special."