Bears

With deadline looming, Gibson still without contract extension

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With deadline looming, Gibson still without contract extension

Time is running out on the Bulls to come to an agreement with Taj Gibson on a contract extension, but the Bulls young power forward is taking the circumstances in stride as he readies himself for another season that begins tomorrow.

Gibson and the Bulls have until 11 p.m. CST tomorrow night to come to an agreement on an extension, or the 6-foot-9 forward will become a restricted free agent at the end of this season. The Bulls could still match any contract offer Gibson receives from another team in free agency, so his future in Chicago is not necessarily hinging on a deal getting done in the next 33 or so hours.

My agent and (Bulls general manager) Gar (Forman) are still working on it. Ill have to wait and see, Gibson said. Hopefully well get something done so I can just focus on basketball. Right now Im just focused on basketball.

Gibson said being in the middle of contract negotiations nearing a deadline is not fun at times, and he has coped with it by turning off his cell phone and, with the help of his teammates and coaches, focused on basketball and the arrival of the season.

But his agent, Mark Bartelstein, still has a job to do, and that means arriving with coffee and McDonalds breakfast as early as 6 a.m. to go over the latest updates on the negotiations.

Every morning its something new, Gibson said. But its a blessing to be in this position. Not many people can say they have a chance to get an extension from a great team like the Chicago Bulls. So Im just taking it in stride.

Gibson is one of a handful of players from the 2009 NBA Draft class looking for extensions as the deadline nears. Ty Lawson, the No. 18 pick, just secured a four-year, 48 million extension this afternoon. Notables such as Brandon Jennings, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Eric Maynor and Tyreke Evans, who Gibson will face tomorrow night, are still awaiting possible extensions before tomorrow's deadline.

The Bulls already have approximately 63 million in salaries committed for the 2013 season, but the talk all offseason has been that re-signing Gibson long-term remains a priority for Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson.

Most people are more focused on it than me. I dont even think about it, to tell you the truth, he said. I turn my cell phone off, go home and focus on the games ahead. Its gonna be a big year, and were just focusing on the Sacramento Kings.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said he hasnt been worried that the extension talks would be a distraction to his power forward, in part because players deal with commotion on a daily basis.

"Thats the thing about the NBA. Hes a terrific player but if you look, it could be a distraction every day, Thibodeau said. Theres an excuse, or you can stay focused and get the job done and hopefully thats what our team will do this year.

Whether Gibson inks a deal before the deadline, more will be expected from the fourth-year reserve. With a re-tooled bench and the loss of Derrick Rose for at least the first half of the season, Gibson knows its up to him to take on more of a leadership role as part of a collective effort to help the team succeed without their superstar.

For him, that begins with consistency. While sporadic minutes off the bench meant mixed results a year ago, Chicagos sixth man is beginning to carve out a role in the frontcourt, spelling starter Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.

It seems like whenever I need to step up I just pick it up a notch. I need to come in with the right mindset, and I need to bring effort every night, Gibson said. Thats one thing, Ive been a guy that watches the game, figures out where I need to pick it up on defense, or what I need to help in on offense, and just figure out plays like that. I just need to be much of a bigger role of a leader off the bench, to come in and be ready to play.

While time is ticking and uncertainty remains, Gibson reiterated his hope to remain in a Bulls uniform as long as possible. That decision may come in the next 24 hours, or it may not come until next summer. For now, Gibson has shifted that responsibility to his agent while he is focused on winning games.

Ive stressed it many times that I want to be here, but theres only so much I can really do besides take care of things on the basketball court, he said. I have to let my agent and Gar Forman handle the rest of the business.

Hes been great, and Gars been great, and were just trying to get this thing done.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:

“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. 

“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard. 

“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”

There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations. 

But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field. 

“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”

There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that. 

This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else. 

So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing.