CHICAGO — Thunderous boos became deafening cheers in an instant.
All it took was Derrick Rose getting off the Knicks bench and walking to the scorer’s table. Bulls fans suddenly forgot about the blowout and gave their one-time franchise player a series of ovations.
“To come here and to see all the love and receive all the love that we got, it was unreal,” Rose said after the Knicks won their sixth straight, 114-91, at the United Center.
Rose was dropped from coach Tom Thibodeau’s rotation after an ugly loss to the Mavericks on Dec. 3, replaced by young guard Miles McBride. But with the game out of hand deep into the fourth quarter, Thibodeau walked down the bench and asked Rose if he wanted to enter the game.
“I couldn’t say [what I told him] right now because they’d fine me or something like that. But I told him I’m ready,” the 34-year-old Rose said. “So, I’m just blessed that we played a great game and it allowed me to go out there and play.”
It was an emotional moment for Rose, a Chicago native who played for the Bulls from 2008-16, reached three All-Star games and was the MVP of the league in that time. The former No. 1 overall draft pick in 2008 had family and friends at both games this week. His kids were in the crowd on Friday, and they broke down as they watched their father serenaded.
The fans exploded when Rose got off the bench, went nuts when he checked in and got even louder after he sank a 3-pointer. The place went wild.
“That was crazy,” Jalen Brunson said. “I think, out of this trip, that’s probably the most special moment.”
Perhaps, the fans’ reaction to Rose will convince the Bulls to retire his number. Years ago, fan backlash forced Anthony Morrow to change his number when he was initially given Rose’s No. 1, and nobody has worn the number in recent years for the Bulls.
Thibodeau said before the game he believes it should happen, just because of how much Rose meant to the city and what a big part he had in some very good Bulls teams.
“That would be a question really for the Bulls organization. I’m hopeful,” the Knicks coach said. “My opinion is he is deserving. I’d love to see it.”
Rose was appreciative of the sentiment from his longtime coach. The Bulls have retired only four jersey numbers, belonging to Michael Jordan (23), Scottie Pippen (33), Jerry Sloan (4) and Bob Love (10).
“He stamped it? Then they should do it then, if Thibs said so,” Rose said with a smile. “Like I said, it would be awesome to see it, but it’s years away from that right now.”