Picked by many to contend for last season's Eastern Conference championship, those expectations crushed a team's previously selfless spirit and cost Scott Skiles and Jim Boylan their jobs.
Tuesday night, with Skiles and Boylan looking on from the Bucks' bench and Vinny Del Negro making his debut as Bulls boss, Rose began his journey toward trying to fulfill massive expectations.
All-Star careers aren't fashioned from one game and NBA seasons are a lengthy grind.
Nevertheless, the Bulls gladly will take their 108-95 triumph before a United Center sellout of 21,762, many of whom will brag about the day they saw Rose's first game.
Despite spending time on the bench icing his right thigh after absorbing a Richard Jefferson knee in the first quarter, Rose finished with 11 points, nine assists and four turnovers in 32 minutes.
The Simeon product received a standing ovation during player introductions, committed a turnover on the opening possession and drew gasps from the crowd with fast-break moves on Jefferson and later on an alley-oop to Tyrus Thomas for a dunk.
"Words can't describe how it felt," Rose said. "I was just hoping I wouldn't trip because I was so excited.
"With the turnovers, I would have to give myself a C. We got the win, though."
Afterward, athletic trainer Fred Tedeschi suggested Rose and Kirk Hinrich present Del Negro with the game ball.
"I appreciated that," Del Negro said.
For all the buzz surrounding Rose, the game started to turn late in the third quarter when the long-time core of Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Hinrich and Andres Nocioni joined Joakim Noah to engineer a 15-4 run.
Deng's 21 points led the Bulls. Gordon scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half.
Gordon sank his first field goal after four misses at the 3-minute-19-second mark of the third, then added a three-pointer after back-to-back Deng baskets.
Hinrich's three-pointer from the top of the circle pushed the Bulls ahead 82-75 after three quarters. Gordon then capped the run and gave the Bulls their first double-digit lead in this see-saw affair that featured 17 lead changes when he swished a three-pointer directly in front of Skiles to open the fourth.
"We played with a lot of energy, rebounded well and did a good job of sharing the ball," Hinrich said.
Hinrich came off the bench to tally 15 points and seven assists as the Bulls assisted on 27 of 35 field goals and shot 50.7 percent. The Bulls also enjoyed a 20-1 edge in fast-break points.
Thomas, often a recipient of Skiles' ire, had 15 points and 10 rebounds in a game-high 41 minutes.
"We shared the ball well," Del Negro said. "We played with intensity and aggressiveness. Kirk came in and gave us a nice lift. Ben came in and made some shots to open the game up for us. Luol was very active. I liked the defensive resolve too."
In some ways, this victory resembled the complete team effort that underscored so many of the Bulls' victories under Skiles.
"It feels great to get the first win Opening Night," Del Negro said. "But it's not about me. It's about the Chicago Bulls, the whole organization, the fan base, the tradition.
"I'm most concerned with representing that the right way for [Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and general manager John Paxson] and the fans. Our players played hard and I expect that consistently."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun