The Bulls defeated the Knicks 82-81 in their home opener at the United Center on Thursday.
• Derrick Rose hits game-winner in United Center return. For the time being -- and for the foreseeable future -- the story of the Bulls is indistinguishable from the story of Derrick Rose. A home opener is always cause for excitement, but that buzz doesn't rate compared to a superstar's comeback from injury, especially when his comeback happens to be a homecoming, too.
Thursday night's episode of Watching Derrick was split cleanly into two parts: the 47 minutes and 50 seconds in which he didn't quite seem to know what to do once he got into the air, and the fantastic 10 seconds -- the final 10 seconds -- in which he did exactly what needed to be done.
In Chicago's first two games, Rose has shot 11-for-38 (28.9 percent) and committed nine turnovers against seven assists. The numbers -- registered against the Heat and Knicks, two well-regarded teams -- are a reminder that "100 percent health" isn't equivalent to total readiness. Rose has looked like himself in the explosiveness department, easily turning the corner and quickly rising off the court; he's looked a bit more troubled when called upon to make split-second reads, sometimes while hovering, at regular-season (not preseason) speeds.
New York, as you might expect, paid him plenty of attention, and Rose converted just four of his 14 attempts from inside the paint. His misses came from a variety of causes: awkward angles, solid contesting efforts, contact on the way up and double-clutch decisions gone awry. Rose attempted just two free throws, which again is a credit to New York's defense, Tyson Chandler particularly, given Rose's regular presence in the basket area. Even in the game's final minute, when he eventually emerged as the hero, Rose got stuck in the air, ultimately throwing the ball out of bounds because the chess pieces around him -- teammates and opponents alike -- weren't quite where he expected them to be.
His decisiveness returned at just the right time. With 5.7 seconds left, Rose hit a pull-up runner over two defenders to deliver the one-point winning margin. It was an instinctual, direct play, and he never acknowledged the pressure of the moment or considered passing, even with the double team and Chandler's length standing between his release and the rim.
Sometimes one spectacular play can erase a night's struggles, sometimes it can't. Sometimes the best play is the one with the least variables, sometimes it isn't. Chicago will celebrate this win, and rightfully so, but perhaps the real applause should be reserved for Rose's willingness to bear the responsibility of making the "game in the balance" choice after so many of his previous decisions were met with potholes and dead ends.
• Carmelo Anthony ups the ante (again). The Point Forward has carefully tracked Anthony's statements regarding the 2014 free agency period. In short: Anthony has said over the last month that he wants to be a free agent, that he doesn't want to leave New York and that he wants to recruit other players for the Knicks.
During Thursday night's telecast on TNT, he took his pledge of allegiance one step further by declaring that he wants to spend the rest of his career with the Knicks.
"They've pulled all the string to get me here," Anthony said of the Knicks. "I wanted to be here. I want to retire in New York, let's just be quite frank. I think a lot of people jumped the gun when I said I wanted to be a free agent. And, yeah, I want people to come to New York. I want them to want to play in New York. I want New York to be that place where guys want to come play."
Anthony will be 30 next summer, when he'll have the opportunity to sign a five-year extension with the Knicks. A hypothetical five-year deal will take Anthony through the rest of his prime, but it's unlikely that it would carry him into retirement. In other words, Anthony is now suggesting that he's ready to sign not one but two new contracts with the Knicks. Some observers might feel that Anthony is simply doing damage control in the wake of his initial comments about becoming a free agent, but this amounts to yoga-esque bending over backward.
• Amar'e Stoudemire debuts. New York's $21.7 million man made his regular-season debut against Chicago after sitting out the Knicks' season-opening win against Milwaukee on Wednesday. Stoudemire played just 12 minutes during the preseason, appearing in only one game, and coach Mike Woodson used him sparingly on Thursday. His final line: five points, one rebound, one assist, one steal and three turnovers in 11 minutes.
There just wasn't much to write home about here. Stoudemire was dinged with multiple charging violations, and his first run through the rotation, at the end of the first quarter, saw Carlos Boozer score six points in roughly 90 seconds as the Bulls closed the quarter on a 12-3 run. Neither Stoudemire nor Andrea Bargnani -- who had nine points, one rebound and three turnovers in 25 minutes -- was on the court down the stretch. Instead, Woodson turned to a smaller lineup of Chandler, Anthony, Iman Shumpert, rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. (in place of the suspended J.R. Smith, presumably) and Raymond Felton. That group put the Knicks in position to win with a 12-4 run midway through the fourth quarter, but Rose's flip shot eventually carried the day. Despite the final result, New York's many advocates for small ball left with another round of ammunition.