Former Bulls great Derrick Rose returns to the United Center fresh off demotion

It wasn’t an easy decision for Knicks coach — and former Bulls coach — Tom Thibodeau to bump Rose out of the rotation less than two weeks ago, but it has proved to be the right move so far.

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Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau removed Derrick Rose from the starting rotation five games ago.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau removed Derrick Rose from the starting rotation five games ago.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

It wasn’t the usual trip back home for Derrick Rose on Wednesday.

The love was still there from a United Center crowd that used to chant “MVP, MVP.’’ That likely will never go away.

But the playing time was long gone for the kid from Englewood.

With Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau searching for a spark after a mediocre start, Rose was bumped out of the rotation five games ago, last getting regular minutes in a loss to the Mavericks on Dec. 3.

Coming into the game against the Bulls, Rose had not played in the previous four games, all wins for Thibodeau’s Knicks.

It wasn’t an easy decision for Thibodeau, especially considering the long history he and Rose have shared going back to their Bulls days, then with the Timberwolves and now with the Knicks.

“Derrick has always been great in terms of handling whatever comes his way,’’ Thibodeau said. “What’s neat is he’s sort of been a mentor to Jalen [Brunson]. He’s really helped Jalen, helped [backup Miles] McBride, and he’ll help the team any way he can. We can start [Rose], we can bring him off the bench, and if he’s not in the rotation, he’s going to be great in practice. He’s going to be in everyone’s ear. And he’s always been that way. When he was the MVP of the league, he cared deeply about his teammates, and whatever he could do to help the team, that’s what he did first.

“I have great respect for him because of our relationship, and I think whatever comes, he’s going to handle it well. He’s been through so many different things, and, look, things can change quickly in this league.’’

It will get interesting during trade-deadline time. Rose is making $14.5 million this season, and the Knicks have a $15.5 million team option next season. If there’s a team in need of off-the-bench backcourt scoring, Rose might fill that need.

Either way, at 34, Rose could be putting a bow on his career sooner rather than later.

Thibodeau, however, wasn’t counting him out, even for this season in New York.

“Whatever way you can help the team, help the team,’’ Thibodeau said. “Everyone has to sacrifice, everyone has to put the team first, and he’s a great example of that. For any pro player, it’s not an easy transition.’’

Familiar faces

Rose and Thibodeau weren’t the only memorable faces making an appearance for the Knicks-Bulls showdown.

Charles Oakley paid a visit to the UC, and Joakim Noah took it a step further, actually walking into Thibodeau’s pregame news conference as he was wrapping it up.

“Late as usual,’’ Thibodeau said.

Noah then waited until the end and claimed he had a question.

“Are you going to go to Derrick’s wedding and you’re not going to come to mine?’’ Noah asked.

Thibodeau paused and said, “Next question.’’

The two then hugged and exited the interview room together.

Waiting game

Guard Ayo Dosunmu, working through an abdominal bruise he suffered in the overtime loss to the Hawks on Sunday, was the latest Bull dealing with injury issues.

Coach Billy Donovan was hoping for a quick recovery.

“I don’t think it’s weeks, but I don’t think it’s going to be in the next day or two,’’ Donovan said. “He is progressing.’’

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