Bulls

Gibson seizing opportunity down the stretch

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Gibson seizing opportunity down the stretch

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

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

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.
WATCH: Thibodeau not happy with Bulls' play against Magic, despite win

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.

Emotional return to the court for Quincy Pondexter after missing two seasons: 'The journey is worth it'

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USA TODAY

Emotional return to the court for Quincy Pondexter after missing two seasons: 'The journey is worth it'

Quincy Pondexter’s trade to Chicago makes him a newcomer. His birth certificate makes him a veteran. But it’s his story that makes him worth listening to.

Even in the eye of team chaos, Pondexter’s debut with the Bulls had such a special meaning that when he entered the game to start the second quarter, he thought he would come to tears.

Having been out of basketball the last two years after knee surgeries went bad, Pondexter came close to dying in a New York hospital in January when his organs began to fail after a MRSA infection.

Catching MRSA can often lead to death.

“It wasn’t looking good,” Pondexter said. “It was tough. I prayed. My family was there close to me. Being able to play basketball again in less than a year is crazy. It’s all God. This journey has been amazing.”

His journey took him from being in New Orleans, where his knee troubles started, to being an addition to the Bulls in a trade months ago when the Bulls picked up cash and a second-round pick from the Pelicans.

Pondexter joined high school teammate and close friend Robin Lopez on a team needing some leadership, and due to the punch Bobby Portis threw to Nikola Mirotic Tuesday afternoon, it put Pondexter in position to get on the floor as a backup power forward behind rookie Lauri Markkanen.

If the Bulls were smart, they’d probably put Pondexter in a room to talk to his teammates about his struggles, especially the two teammates who may have to share the same floor in several weeks.

“The competitive nature of our team has been really terrific and we wouldn't want to trade that for anything,” Pondexter said. “It hurts those two guys aren't here right now. But we love them and we love what they brought to this team.

“I think my age on my ID solidifies me as one of the veterans. When you do things the right way, that's what it means to be a veteran. Show up first, last one there. That's what it means to be a veteran. Establishing myself there and doing things that are right, the guys have followed and listened and embraced me and I love it.”

No word on whether Pondexter got teary-eyed when he got a breakaway steal and dunk for his first points since the 2015 playoffs, when the Pelicans were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual champion Warriors.

“I know I’m going to get emotional on the court later on and probably tear up,” Pondexter said after the morning shootaround. “I told Robin that a thousand times. People don’t know what you’ve been through. There are a lot of times they’re not there besides your close family and friends. I appreciate them carrying me through this whole process.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg can relate to Pondexter, with Hoiberg’s heart ailment cutting his career short. When the Bulls coach speaks about the frailty of the game and how precious things are in the NBA, Pondexter is living, breathing proof.

“I’m really really happy for Quincy. For a time there, his life was in danger with his infection. I know he’s really excited to get his career going again,” Hoiberg said. “I never got that opportunity to get back out there. I tell these guys to cherish it ever day. You never know when it can end. All of a sudden. For Quincy to get this chance, it’s awesome.”

Pondexter, with the straightest of faces, called basketball his “obsession” and he felt happy to get back on the floor, if even for a few minutes.

“I love it to death. It’s my life,” Pondexter said. “Basketball is what got me through it---my family and basketball. It was like, ‘How can I make this story even better? Do I quit?’ No. I watched so many inspirational movies, 'Hacksaw Ridge.' They get you through tough times because you say, ‘That’s going to be me.’ I’m going to be able to inspire someone down the road. That’s really helped me.”

A hamstring injury slowed Pondexter in training camp, which would explain his lack of explosive lift in the season opener.

No one was really sure if the Bulls would hold onto him for the season, but it’s clear he holds value beyond the box score. When he finished his media session, Lopez turned to Pondexter and said, “Now you’re stuck with me”, putting his arm around his teammate.

“Being able to play after two and a half years, it feels like hundreds of surgeries, getting traded to this organization. It's been a lot,” Pondexter said. “I wouldn't trade any of that for this moment right now and how I feel in my heart. I can't wait to get on this floor and play with my teammates and try to do something special. The journey is worth it.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: Trounced by Raptors in season opener

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Trounced by Raptors in season opener

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Will Perdue break down the Bulls season opener vs the Raptors. They’ll explain why Bulls fans should be very happy with the debut of rookie Lauri Markkanen and Kendall points out why he expects the Markkanen/Lavine combo to be great on the offensive end. They’ll also go over their concerns at point guard, and Will shares his story of how Greg Popovich dealt with a losing Spurs team in 1996-97.