NEW YORK - It was a much-anticipated return and Derrick Rose did not disappoint.
The former National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player returned after a long injury layoff to lead the Chicago Bulls to a convincing 104-80 win over the New York Knicks.
Rose's return and the addition of Spanish veteran Pau Gasol have seen the Bulls tipped as Eastern Conference contenders for this season, and they looked the part at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.
"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.
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 put up 21 points with 11 rebounds.
Taj Gibson scored 22 points in 28 minutes off the bench for the Bulls, who connected on more 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 this year's 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 that he was eager to be back on an NBA court after surgery last November, but said he was not harbouring any unrealistic expectations.
"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."
In Miami, it appears the Heat do not need "King James" after all. They opened their post-LeBron James era with a bang as Chris Bosh scored 26 points and 15 rebounds in their 107-95 victory over Washington.
Dwyane Wade scored 12 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter while Norris Cole added 23 and off-season acquisition Luol Deng scored 12 in his Heat debut.