The Chicago Bulls welcomed former NBA Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose back from injury Wednesday with a convincing 104-80 win over the New York Knicks.
The return of Rose and the addition of Spanish veteran Pau Gasol have branded the Bulls as Eastern Conference contenders in 2014/15, and they looked the part at Madison Square Garden.
“I wouldn’t say my rust is knocked off, but it’s getting there,” said Rose, who missed the final 71 games of last season with a torn meniscus after missing all of the previous campaign recovering from a torn knee ligament.
“I can’t be content with how I’m performing,” he added. “I have to put it behind me whether it’s good or bad and make sure I stay consistent with my workouts. Physically, I feel good.”
Both Rose and Gasol made key contributions. Rose – the 2011 NBA MVP – scored 13 points with five assists in his long awaited regular-season return and off-season acquisition Gasol putting up 21 points with 11 rebounds.
Taj Gibson scored 22 points in 28 minutes off the bench for the Bulls, who connected on better than 50 per cent of their shots from the field and effectively smothered the Knicks offence.
In all the Bulls received 55 points from their reserves, with Aaron Brooks netting 13 and 2014 first-round draft pick Doug McDermott scoring 12 in his NBA debut.
For New York, it was a disappointing start to the head coaching tenure of Derek Fisher, the former player drafted to implement the Phil Jackson triangle offence.
Carmelo Anthony was held to 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting and the Knicks finished a lacklustre 3-for-17 from three-point range.
Amare Stoudemire was New York’s only other player to score in double figures, with 12 points to go with his eight rebounds.
Rose acknowledged he was eager to get back on an NBA court for the first time since surgery last November, but said he wasn’t harbouring any unrealistic expectations for himself.
“It’s still going to take some time,” he said. “I’m not worried about that. I might have some bad games here and there. But that’s not going to stop me from trying to be aggressive.”
The second night of the season saw Miami open their post-LeBron James era with a bang as Chris Bosh scored 26 points with 15 rebounds in the Heat’s 107-95 victory over Washington.
Bosh, who saw his numbers dwindle in each of the four seasons that superstar James played for the Heat, inked a five-year $118 million (Dh433.4m) deal in the off-season to stay in Miami, while James opted to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio.
Turns out the Heat, who won two titles in four trips to the NBA finals in James’ four years in Miami, didn’t need “King James” to put on a show.
Dwyane Wade scored 12 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter while Norris Cole added 23 and off-season acquisition Luol Deng of Britain scored 12 in his Miami debut.
James, meanwhile, will launch his second stint in Cleveland on Thursday, when the Cavaliers open their season hosting the Knicks.
Elsehwere on Wednesday night, the Golden State Warriors overcame an off night from three by their star shooting duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who went 4-for-17 combined from the arc but still managed to score 24 and 19 points, respectively, in an easy 95-77 win over the Sacramento Kings.
The Charlotte Hornets, in their first game since returning to their old name, overcame the Milwaukee Bucks in overtime 108-106 after needing to outscore the visitors by 15 in the fourth quarter to force the extra frame. Kemba Walker had 26 points, six rebounds and five assists to lead the Hornets. Much-hyped Milwaukee rookie Jabari Parker had 8 points on 3-of-9 shooting in the loss.
At Boston, Rajon Rondo returned from a broken hand and had 13 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds in the season opener to help the Celtics beat the Brooklyn Nets 121-105.
Kelly Olynyk had 19 points and Jeff Green added 17 for Boston, who opened a 29-point lead at the end of the third quarter and coasted to the win.
Mirza Teletovic had 20 points and six rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench for the Nets. Joe Johnson scored 19 points for Brooklyn, and Deron Williams had 19 points and eight assists.
The Suns beat the Los Angeles Lakers 119-99 despite Kobe Bryant’s 31 points after Isaiah Thomas scored 23 points in his Phoenix debut and Marcus Morris matched his career high with five three-pointers.
Goran Dragic scored 12 of his 18 points in the third quarter, when the Suns outscored the Lakers 39-24 and led by as many as 29. Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe had 16 points and nine assists before he drew his second technical foul and was ejected with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.
Bryant, 11-of-25 from the field, didn’t play in the fourth quarter. Ed Davis scored 14 points and Wayne Ellington 13 for Los Angeles.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 points as the Portland Trail Blazers rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Oklahoma City 106-89.
In other games, the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 105-101 and the Houston Rockets downed the Utah Jazz 104-93.
The Indiana Pacers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 103-91, the Toronto Raptors beat the Atlanta Hawks 109-102 and the Denver Nuggets were 89-79 winners over the Detroit Pistons.
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