CHICAGO (AP)—One thought crossed Derrick Rose’s mind as he lined up in the tunnel for his pregame introduction: Don’t trip.
The rookie made it through just fine, although his on-court debut was an up-and-down affair.
While Rose elicited oohs, aahs and groans, Luol Deng and Ben Gordon provided enough big shots to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 108-95 victory over former coach Scott Skiles and the Milwaukee Bucks in the season opener Tuesday.
Deng scored 21 points and Gordon added 18 to offset Michael Redd’s 30. The attention centered on Rose, the No. 1 draft pick and Chicago native, and it took him awhile to calm down.
He led Memphis to the NCAA championship game, but this?
“It’s way more intense,” he said. “I’m playing in an NBA game in my hometown. I don’t know if it can get any better.”
Rose wowed fans with his quickness and strength but mixed in enough mistakes to remind them he is a work in progress. He finished with 11 points, nine assists and four turnovers.
“He’s beating himself up over the four turnovers,” said coach Vinny Del Negro, a winner in his debut. “He’s a rookie and he’s happy we won the game. that shows the character of the kid, and you can work with people like that.”
Rose had help, with six Bulls scoring in double figures.
Deng shot 8-for-13 after signing a six-year contract in the offseason, and Gordon scored 10 in the fourth quarter.
Watching from the visitors sideline was Skiles, who led Chicago to three straight playoffs but was fired in December following a slow start. The Bucks jumped at the chance to hire the coach after going 26-56 last season, signing him to a four-year deal in April with the hope that he could inject the tough defense and unselfish play that characterized the Bulls before their collapse. But there is clearly work to do.
The Bucks went 1-7 in the preseason, capping it with a loss at the United Center last week. This one counted, but the result was no better.
“We were a step slow and we were slapping at people,” Skiles said. “Pretty much, every category they owned.”
Redd dominated after winning a gold medal with Team USA at the Olympics but it was a rough night for Richard Jefferson. Acquired in a trade with New Jersey, he scored 15 points but hit just five of 17 shots.
The Bulls were trailing 73-72 late in the third quarter when Deng hit a jumper from the top and a running bank shot. After two free throws by Redd, Kirk Hinrich hit a 3-pointer with 32 seconds left to make it 82-75.
Gordon then started the fourth with a 3 that made it a 10-point game, and Chicago maintained control the rest of the way.
Hinrich scored 15 points in a reserve role, while Tyrus Thomas added 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Rose, who led Memphis to the NCAA championship game in his lone college season, was just a bit nervous before the game, his mind racing as he waited for the public address announcer to call his name.
“Words can’t describe what I felt,” he said. “I was worried about tripping.”
Rose cut through the smoke and the crowd erupted in a loud roar as he made his way onto the court. Then, reality delivered a hard smack.
Seconds into the game, Redd picked off a pass and scored on a fadeaway, and a collective shiver went through the crowd just over a minute later. Rose, who left the preseason finale against Milwaukee with a minor hip injury, clutched his left thigh after being fouled. He hit one of two free throws and eased any concerns moments later when he cut around two defenders for a transition layup.
“As he matures, he’s going to be terrific,” Redd said.
At times, he looked like a star. Other times, he looked like a rookie— albeit a promising one.
The Bulls are looking for Rose to lead them out of the mess they created last season, when they went from 49 wins to 49 losses while bickering with each other and the coaches. They took the hometown product over Michael Beasley and gave him the keys to their offense.
“Sky’s the limit,” Deng said. “He has stuff to work on, but he already has stuff that he’s ahead of the game. He’s a hard worker, and I’m sure he’s going to reach it.”
Bucks C Andrew Bogut, bothered lately by a sprained left ankle, had nine points and seven rebounds. PG Luke Ridnour started and delivered seven points and four assists after missing practice with a back injury. … Del Negro decided to start the 6-foot-7 Thabo Sefolosha at shooting guard and bring Hinrich off the bench, adding some height to the starting front court and giving the second unit an experienced ball-handler. … The Bulls named Hinrich, Deng and Drew Gooden captains.