Rose scored 29 points in 39 minutes but was visibly rusty as the Bulls lost 100-99 in overtime. He also added six rebounds and four assists but had eight turnovers.
Rose's return meant the Bulls had their projected starting five for just the 11th time this season. The Bulls had the reigning MVP in the lineup for the afternoon tip with Richard Hamilton, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng for the first time since March 5 against Indiana. They are 9-2 with that group after Sunday's loss.
Rose, who injured his groin during a March 12 matchup against the Knicks, has missed 22 games on the year because of various injuries. Coach Tom Thibodeau said before Sunday's game that he wants to see how Rose performs early before making a judgment as to where Rose is physically.
"You don't know where a guy is," Thibodeau said. "It's similar to Rip because it was such a long period of time, there's going to be some rust with the timing and stuff like that, but it's one thing in practice, you try to get practice to be as close to a game-like condition as possible, but at this time of the year you're not going as long and you also know you can never get that intensity level the same as in a game, so it will be interesting to see (how he does). What he's done in the past whenever he's missed time, he's always come back very strong and picked things up very quickly. He'll be OK."
Thibodeau appreciates how diligent his superstar has been in trying to get back on the floor. Like Rose, Thibodeau believes there may be a silver lining when it comes to what Rose has been able to focus on during his time on the bench.
"It's who he is," Thibodeau said. "You have to make the best of any situation that you're in. He was out, he put a lot into his rehab, conditioning and rehabbing the injury, also studying and getting himself ready. He's great that way; I think that's what makes him so special. That's his drive. He made good use of his time and hopefully he'll be helpful down the road."
With just nine games remaining in the regular season, Thibodeau likes the way his team is lining up heading into the postseason.
"You only can control what you can control," Thibodeau said before Sunday's game. "Injuries are part of (the season). The good thing is that a number of guys had an opportunity to play and that's the way you have to look at it. Derrick and Rip are fresh, so that's good, and now they have to get their timing."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.