Derrick Rose looked nothing like a Most Valuable Player award winner in his return to regular-season action on Tuesday night. Luckily, his stat line was pretty far down on the list of things the Chicago Bulls should have been concerned with during in the season opener.
The talented point guard, who was making his first start since suffering an ACL injury during the playoffs two seasons ago, was far from his best against the Miami Heat. He scored just 12 points, made only one of his seven three-point attempts and had more turnovers than assists.
Surprisingly, the Bulls were able to to remain competitive with the two-time defending champions despite his lackluster performance. They lost by just 12 on the road, with Carlos Boozer and Jimmy Butler picking up the slack.
The only number that really matters for Rose is 34. That's the amount of minutes he was able to play without any noticeable signs of knee problems, which is exactly what the Bulls were hoping for after more than a year away.
He played in the preseason, but the level of play in exhibitions simply can't match the games that actually count. That's especially true when the first opponent on the schedule is Miami, the best team in the league until proven otherwise.
Rose moved up and down the court well, attacked the basket on occasion and his presence opened up more space for his Bulls teammates. What he lacked was his usual shooting touch and the court vision fans have become accustomed to seeing.
Those issues don't come as a major surprise, though. It will probably take a couple weeks for him to find a consistent rhythm with his shot. There's a big difference between hitting open jumpers in the practice gym and knocking down long-range shots with defenders guarding the perimeter.
ESPN Stats and Info passed along Rose's shot chart, showing his struggles from beyond the arc:
While his shot will come back with time, the court vision issue is a little trickier. While getting back up to speed with the pace of play is the biggest factor, it also involves rebuilding the chemistry with his teammates.
At times, Rose looked a split second behind with his decisions in the opener, and that's all it takes for a swarming defense like Miami's to take advantage.
Once the Memphis product is back on the same page with Boozer, Luol Deng and Co., the quick ball movement will become second nature again. From there, the turnover numbers will drop, the assist totals will rise and Rose should take off.
It's impossible to know exactly when everything is going to come together, but there were enough promising signs against the Heat to think it won't take more than a month. That's assuming Rose can stay healthy, of course.
All told, once Rose gets back into top form, the Bulls will become one of the biggest threats to the Heat's title reign. The opener showed they aren't on that level quite yet.
With Rose back in the mix, however, better days are certainly ahead for Chicago.