This is what it was supposed to look like.
Call Monday night the first real glimpse.
After missing four of the last five games with two sprained ankles, Derrick Rose was back in the Bulls’ starting lineup.
After spending two days quarantined from the team with flu-like symptoms, Joakim Noah played his second-straight game.
And then there was Jimmy Butler, still with his left thumb heavily taped, but again present.
Butler, Noah, Rose, Pau Gasol and Mike Dunleavy … the projected starting five at the start of the year, finally getting a chance to play together in a regular-season game.
Obviously, still with a lot of work to do.
Yes, the Bulls (6-2) beat the Detroit Pistons at the United Center 102-91, but not before watching a 19 point lead slip down to two late in the fourth quarter.
Then again, these are the Pistons, so winning games isn’t really in their DNA.
Butler made sure of that, as the shooting guard had eight fourth-quarter points, including a back-breaking three-pointer with just 1:55 left.
But it was all eyes on Rose, as he played just his second complete game, scoring 24 points on 9-for-20 shooting, as well as handing out seven assists and grabbing two rebounds.
“The thing is I think he just has to play,’’ Thibodeau said of his one-time league MVP. “I really do. Play basketball, the game tells you what you should do. Run the team, play to your strengths, cover up your weaknesses. You gotta do your job out there. I just want to see him put a string of games together.’’
Let’s start with one.
Rose was not only good early in the win, scoring eight points in the opening quarter, but returned to that all too familiar role of closer, hitting a floater over D.J. Augustin with 53.8 seconds left to put the Bulls up 97-89. Then hit two free throws to put the game on ice.
As for the duo of Gasol and Noah, they combined for 30 points, as well as 29 rebounds and 10 assists.
“We just came out and played hard, stayed focused,’’ Rose said of the win. “My teammates believe in me. I missed a lot of shots, but we came out with the win.’’