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Emotional Homecoming For Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose Also A Winning One

By Cody Westerlund--

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Derrick Rose wasn't surprised by the reaction he received from the United Center crowd Friday night.

Playing the first game in his hometown since being traded from the Bulls to the Knicks in June, Rose was peppered with cheers but also some clearly audible boos in pregame introductions, then received more heckling early in the game when he handled the ball. When it was done and Rose had a moment to reflect after he and fellow former Bull Joakim Noah had led the Knicks to a 117-104 victory against a franchise that they defined for nearly a decade, Rose recalled his younger days growing up in Chicago.

"It was a lot of fun," Rose said. "I love competing. The crowd was into it. I knew there was going to be some yells, going to be some boos. But I'm from here, like I'm used to it. I've been getting it ever since I was in sixth grade, going on the West Side, playing the West Side and we being from the South Side. So I'm used to it."

While Rose went with the company line of Friday "was huge because it was the next game," the emotional Noah didn't hide his joy in beating the Bulls and some familiar faces. He admitted it "felt really good, I'm not going to lie," and this was reflected in his actions as the game wound down.

As Noah and Rose checked out of the game together with 28.1 seconds left, Noah began skipping and bopping Rose on the head in celebration. After taking a couple playful blows, Rose returned the favor.

Each had submitted their best performance in the fifth games of their Knicks tenures, with Rose recording 15 points and a season-high 11 assists and Noah submitting a line of 16 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals that was reminiscent of some of his best days as a Bull.

Just before Rose received a mixed reaction in pregame introductions – clouded by an injury-plagued past four-plus years, sometimes-wayward communication skills and a recent sexual assault civil suit in which he was found not liable but was nonetheless an ugly ordeal – Noah received an all-encompassing, rousing ovation that he appreciated.

"There was a lot of love in the building tonight," Noah said.

"It was harder than I thought, just in terms of keeping my emotions in check."

Noah (ninth overall in 2007) and Rose (first overall in 2008) were drafted a year apart by the Bulls and had spent their entire careers in Chicago until this season. They were the centerpieces of an Eastern Conference finalist squad in 2011, when Rose became the youngest player in NBA history to win MVP, and led the Bulls to seven consecutive playoff appearances.

Their accomplishments in Chicago were noted when the Bulls showcased a well-done video tribute of Noah and Rose during the first timeout of the first quarter, which the two saw snippets of while also trying to pay attention to their coaching staff during the break. As they returned to the floor, they were again recognized by public address announcer Tommy Edwards, who serenaded Noah with a "man in the middle" and Rose with a "from Chicago" reference.

Later, Noah was introspective, wondering once again what could've been.

"When I think about it, there's still things that are tough because I look back on it and I'm like, 'Damn, we were really close,'" Noah said. "I look at I see Taj (Gibson) and I see Jimmy (Butler) and I see these guys and I know I competed with these guys for a long time. Even though we're competing against each other and talk (crap) and all that, at the end of the day, they're still my brothers.

"But it feels good, because even though we didn't win a championship here, I know how bad Derrick wanted to win one, how bad I wanted to win one here. And it just didn't happen. But there's no regrets, because I know we gave it everything we had for this city."

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for and coversthe Bulls. He's also the co-host of the @LockedOnBulls podcast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes and Stitcher. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.

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