Gibson seizing opportunity down the stretch


Gibson seizing opportunity down the stretch

Monday, April 11, 2011
Posted: 10:43 a.m.

By Aggrey Sam

NEW YORKWith all the gloom-and-doom talk the Bulls have been espousing lately, one would think the team didnt realize theyre a 60-win team and the Easts top seed for the upcoming playoffs. But while no can argue with the results that Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has gained from his striving-for-perfection approach, there are clearly some positive recent trends.

From the obvious, such as Derrick Roses comfort in the clutch and game management, to the more subtle, like Carlos Boozers playmaking abilitymaybe his scoring numbers arent always as gaudy as expected, but the power forwards ability to command a double team in the low post and set up his teammates for easy baskets has taken pressure off Rosethe Bulls goal of continuing to get better as the season goes on is being manifested in roles developing in an ongoing process.

An example: Taj Gibson. After an unexpected NBA all-rookie team debut campaign in which he started 70 regular-season gamesand supplanted Tyrus Thomas as a starter, perhaps hastening the former lottery picks departureGibson overcame a tough summer personally to pick up where he left off by filling in for the injured Boozer at the beginning of this season. But when Boozer returned to health, Gibson struggled with both injury woes and the adjustment of coming off the bench.

The second-year USC product has been inconsistent, but as of late, he has truly embraced his role as the Bulls first big man off the bench and an energy player.

At first, the beginning of the year, Thibodeau wanted me to start, take shots, play big minutes, rebound the ball and do my job. Then, it was just come off the bench, figure out your minutes, figure out less minutes, do what you need to do. Its all been learning steps my first two years in this league. Hes been around the league a long time, so hes just been helping me and telling me what I need to do: Play with a lot of pace, a lot of poise and go out there, play your game. Let everything fall out, just go out there and unleash, said Gibson, a New Yorker, who will have a homecoming of sorts in the Bulls game against the Knicks Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. Whenever he needs me to go out there and calm down a big that can really stretch the floor, and just try to contain him, he puts me in that role. He uses me in a lot of different roles.

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With him, he just wants me to be ready and when I get in the game, dont worry about my minutes. Just play 100 miles-per-hour, just go out thereeven if I make mistakesand just play hard.

Gibson isnt always going to put up big numbers statistically with Boozer in front of him and a capable post-player rotationveteran Kurt Thomas and rookie Omer Asik can also play major minutes, depending on matchupsbut with starting center Joakim Noah still struggling with his timing since returning from a sprained right ankle, the Brooklyn, N.Y., native has been increasingly valuable. For instance, in Sundays win over Orlando, Gibson was key in containing the Magics Ryan Andersonwho started in place of suspended All-Star center Dwight Howard. Anderson is primarily a pick-and-pop big man, whose versatility gave Noah trouble.

I had to go against him for two years. In college, it seemed to me that he was shooting a little deeper, so I already had my eyes set on what Coach needed me to and thats one thing about our team, explained Gibson, who faced Anderson when both were Pacific-10 Conference stars in college. We have a lot of different big men for any situation, so when he called my name, I understood that he wanted me to show a lot, wanted me to stay out there on the wing and when they went to a smaller lineup, he wanted me to switch a lotone through fiveand I was ready and better equipped for that.

Gibsons efficient play and improved work ethic has earned praise from Thibodeauboth publicly and privatelywhich is no small feat.

Hes just been telling me that Ive been doing a good job with staying late, getting my reps in, working on my game, keeping my game crisp, getting better and taking advantage of the situations, just going in, play my game, playing with effort.

"I feel good. Ive been taking care of my body, revealed Gibson. One thing about Thibs, he lives in the gym and I have teammates that have been helping me get better in Derrick, Carlos, Joakim, Lu. Its been up and down all year, but theyve been sticking with me and its been getting better.
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Taj has been playing terrific, whatever role you put him in. you play him at the four, you play him at the five, praised Thibodeau, who has been quietly been giving Gibson some of Noahs minutesHes got to do better. Hes capable. We need him. We need him to play better and he will, said the coach of his starting centerwhile the latter attempts to get back in the swing of things. He plays defense, he challenges shots, he blocks shots, he sets great screens, hes playing with a lot of energy.

He had some setbacks with injury, but hes gotten better as the seasons gone along. I think the biggest adjustment for him was going from being a starter to coming off the bench, Thibodeau went on to say about Gibson. I think hes comfortable with that now and of course, we know if he has to start, he can handle that great. But his shot-blocking ability to switch on pick-and-rolls, hes gotten much better with his jump shot from 17 feet, hes got a great jump hook inside.

Hes playing at a very high level for us right now.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Bulls Bracket Madness: The best individual seasons in franchise history


Bulls Bracket Madness: The best individual seasons in franchise history

We're trying to figure out the best season in Bulls franchise history, and we want your help in deciding.

Because the Bulls tout the greatest player in basketball history, who could have made up this list by himself, we're giving Michael Jordan his own side of the bracket. But the other side of the bracket is also filled with some pretty memorable and remarkable campaigns.

So read up on each matchup and then have your voice heard by voting on our Twitter page here. Check out the entire bracket in the graphic above.

The Jordan Region

No. 1 Michael Jordan (1995-96) vs. No. 8 Michael Jordan (1990-91)

No. 1 Michael Jordan (1995-96): Jordan was on a mission in his first full season back from retirement. He led the Bulls to a then-record 72 wins with a regular-season MVP award, All-Star MVP and romp through the NBA playoffs, where the Bulls went 15-3 en route to their fourth NBA title. Jordan won his eighth straight scoring title at 30.4 points a game, with nine games where he put up 40 or more. He saved his best for Detroit, scoring 53 with 11 rebounds and six steals in early March. To prove Jordan was getting better as he aged, he shot a career-high 43 percent from 3-point range at age 33.

No. 2 Michael Jordan (1990-91): 1990-91: Jordan's second MVP came with his first NBA title, as he was at the peak of his powers physically combined with the ultimate team success, with the Bulls finally getting past Detroit before defeating the Lakers in the Finals. He shot a career-high 54 percent from the field while averaging 31.5 points, six rebounds and 5.5 assists as he began to fully embrace the triangle offense in Phil Jackson's second season. Jordan had 57 games where he shot better than 50 percent from the field, and was among the league leaders in steals at 2.7 per game while earning his fourth straight All-Defensive First Team honor.

No. 1 Derrick Rose (2010-11) vs. No. 2 Scottie Pippen (1993-94)

No. 1 Derrick Rose (2010-11): Where to begin? The youngest MVP in league history took the league by storm, averaging 25.0 points and 7.7 assists while leading the Bulls to a league-best 62 wins. Rose had been named an All-Star the previous season but took his game to new heights in Year 3, appearing in 81 games, making 128 3-pointers (after making a combined 32 his first two seasons) while helping the Bulls rank first in defensive efficiency under first year head coach Tom Thibodeau. Rose and the Bulls lost in five games to LeBron James and the Miami Heat, with Rose shooting a paltry 35 percent on 24 attempts per game. But his historic season will always go down as one of the franchise’s best, and the only non-Jordan MVP.

No. 2 Scottie Pippen (1993-94): Yeah, well what would Scottie be without MJ? We found out that answer in 1993-94, when Pippen took the reins of the franchise as Jordan rode the Birmingham bus as a minor-league baseball player. Pippen responded with a sensational season, averaging 22.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists. He averaged 2.9 steals, shot 49 percent from the field and became a 3-point threat for the first time in his career. He was named First Team All-NBA and All-NBA Defensive First Team, and finished third to Hakeem and The Admiral in MVP voting. He averaged 22.8/8.3/4.6 in the postseason but ultimately proved it was easier to win in the spring with MJ by his side. Still, this individual season was one of the franchise’s best, if not the best. Hardware isn’t everything.

NBA Draft Tracker: Kentucky PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander


NBA Draft Tracker: Kentucky PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

For most of the college basketball season, John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats ranked among the nation’s biggest underachievers. Calipari had perfected the one-and-done route in Lexington, recruiting classes full of McDonald’s All-Americans every year, making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, and then sending those talented freshmen off to the NBA. Matter of fact, Coach Cal’s ability to get players ready to play professionally is the foundation of his recruiting success.

However, this season the tried and true formula ran into a bit of a speed bump. Injuries and inconsistency led to double digit losses for the Wildcats during the regular season, and an uncertain tournament outlook. That’s when freshman point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander emerged as the leader of this young team, and sparked Kentucky to a Southeastern Conference tournament championship.

Gilgeous-Alexander has been even better in the NCAA Tournament, scoring 19 points with 8 rebounds and 7 assists in the Wildcats’ opening round win over Davidson, then coming back with 27 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in a victory over Buffalo.

At 6-6, Gilgeous-Alexander has the ability to shoot and pass over smaller defenders, while also possessing the quickness that is so crucial at the point guard position. Yes, he is very thin at 180 pounds, but has the frame to put on weight once he’s introduced to an NBA strength training program.

Gilgeous-Alexander has been Kentucky’s most efficient player throughout the season, shooting 49% from the field and nearly 42% from the 3 point line. He has the quickness and ball-handling ability to break down defenses and get in the paint for easy scores or assists. As the season progressed, Gilgeous-Alexander took on the role of go-to scorer late in games, sparking Kentucky’s runs in the S.E.C. AND NCAA tournaments.

So, by now I’m sure you’re asking, where does he fit with the Bulls? 3 weeks ago I was hoping Gilgeous-Alexander might be available in the 16-22 range where the Bulls might be able to get him with the Pelicans’ 1st round pick acquired in the Niko Mirotic trade. Unfortunately, his outstanding post-season play has him rocketing into the late lottery in the most recent mock drafts, and he could move up even higher if Kentucky advances to the Final 4.

The Bulls are happy with Kris Dunn as their starting point guard, and both Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne are under contract for next season. But if somehow the Pelicans fall out of the playoff field in the West (which seems very unlikely right now), adding an athletic combo guard like Gilgeous-Alexander would be an outstanding pick at 13 or 14.

So, when you’re watching Kentucky play in the NCAA Tournament, keep an eye on the tall, skinny guard wearing #22 and try to project just how good he might be on the professional level.