Derrick Rose looked amazing in his return to the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls 96, Detroit Pistons 81: What Did We Learn Last Night?

Derrick Rose took the court at the United Center for the first time since April 28, 2012, last night, and he was electric, just as he was in his first two preseason games. He was explosive, he was aggressive, and he didn’t show any ill effects from the knee soreness that caused him to miss Saturday’s game in Rio de Janiero. Oh, and the rest of the team looked pretty good too, even with Jimmy Butler not playing because of a bruised knee.

So, what did we learn?

1) Rose says he’s even more explosive now than he was before the injury, and I can’t immediately deny that.

My first thought when I saw that was to scoff, because why would he have gotten more explosive after such a traumatic injury? But honestly, watching him, he looks just as good as he did before, and he might well be better. I can’t tell. He scored 22 points on 6/9 from the field and 9/10 from the free throw line in just 22 minutes. That’s absurd.

His defense has taken a massive step forward as well. Pre-injury Rose was at best OK defensively and tended to get hung up on screens, a no-no in Tom Thibodeau’s defense, which places a premium on point guards getting over screens quickly. Post-injury Rose gets over screens without any particular difficulty and plays the passing lanes aggressively. Rose’s athleticism always has indicated he should be at worst solid defensively, and we’re finally starting to see that happen.

So yeah, it’s nice to have Rose back.

2) I’m kind of starting to get sad about Tony Snell’s lack of minutes and the season hasn’t even started yet.

Through three games, Tony Snell couldn’t make anything from the field. He did a bunch of other things well — namely passing and defense — but his shot wasn’t falling, which made it seem like he wasn’t playing well. But last night, in 24 minutes — including most of a quarter next to Rose — he went 5/8 from the field and 2/4 from three, scoring 12 points to go with 4 assists and 3 steals.

Honestly, Snell looks like he’s going to be yet another steal from the latter portion of the first round by the Bulls front office. I love his feel for the game, his ability to just kind of appear in the right place at the right time and make the right play once there. As noted above, I’m getting a little sad that he’ll get the patented “Thibs redshirt” once the season starts, because he seems like he absolutely could help from day one.

Unfortunately, Snell looking solid makes me almost certain that Luol Deng will not be back next year. If Snell is ready to contribute, there’s no way Jerry Reinsdorf is gonna sign off on $12-14 million a year for Deng when he can pay Snell, Mike Dunleavy and Jimmy Butler all of $6.8 million combined and get comparable production. This is depressing and it’s still 9 months away. Sigh.

3) Marquis Teague played well mostly!

I’ve been very disappointed in the narrative surrounding Teague of late. People seem to think he’s a completely lost cause and the Bulls front office wants to trade him so they can pay Mike James marginally less money. The unfortunate part is that I can’t immediately point to any hard statistical evidence to refute that impression. Teague’s stats — whether from last year or the preseason — really just aren’t good.

Now, I really dislike the people who say stats don’t matter and that the “eye test” shows a player is good despite bad stats. I spent most of last season arguing with Kirk Hinrich fans who insisted that his terrible stats meant nothing because he “ran the offense well” some other such unprovable thing. But while Teague hasn’t been good, per se, he’s not been nearly as bad as his stats tend to indicate.

I can’t think of another player who makes so many good plays that produce absolutely nothing for him. In the second quarter, Teague found Nazr Mohammed under the basket with solid passes and Nazr couldn’t finish. This happens a lot. Teague also has a tendency to make a good pass, only to see it lead to free throws or to another pass to the open guy. In either case, Teague is left out in the cold statistically.

I’m going to keep riding this “Teague is/can be good” thing until you people actually listen, dammit.

4) Taj Gibson: Still good at basketball.

At this point, I think we’ve pretty well established that Taj — thanks to the massive improvement on his jumper — is a better all-around player than Carlos Boozer. But he’s not gonna start unless the team struggles or Boozer gets hurt, so let’s all get used to this now. Tom Thibodeau isn’t gonna fix what isn’t broken as long as the team is winning. But expect a lot of Rose/Jimmy Butler/Deng/Taj/Joakim Noah to finish games.

5) Joakim Noah played and, um, did things? I guess?

Noah finally played for the first time this season, which was nice. He didn’t really do much of anything, but he was out there and that’s progress. He said he was surprised that he was conditioned as well as he was, which is encouraging going forward. So I guess we’ll just wait and see. He did have 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks though, so that’s nice.

Bulls next game is Friday, when they’ll play the Indiana Pacers at home.

There’s plently to be excited about with this team this season, to see them live when they return home, get your Chicago Bulls tickets here.

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