Bulls' Taj Gibson makes positive impact in preseason debut


Bulls' Taj Gibson makes positive impact in preseason debut

He expected it, but Taj Gibson still had to laugh about finding himself huffing and puffing after his first time downcourt in his preseason debut after ankle surgery.

“To tell you the truth, my heart was beating so fast,” Gibson said. “I was too hyped, my first play down I couldn’t catch my breath.”

Fred Hoiberg saw all he needed to see in 10 minutes of Gibson’s return, as the veteran scored four points, making two of his three shots and grabbing a couple of boards.

“Taj was good his first time out,” Hoiberg said.

Hoiberg wasn’t happy about much in the Bulls’ 114-91 loss to the Pistons, but seeing Gibson out there, displaying his usual spunk had to please him on some level. Gibson battled through excruciating pain in the postseason, then found out after he had torn ligaments in his left ankle that hindered his athleticism and mobility defensively.

[MORE: Hoiberg unhappy with defense, slippage shows in loss to Pistons]

After going though a decent amount of practices and scrimmages, playing in an actual game was a test for him. He hit a baseline jumper and was active around the glass, so it’s a step forward in the recovery process.

“It was fun, being able to touch the ball for the first time in a long time, after rehab and a lot of work over the summer,” he said. “It just felt good to be out there.”

Gibson isn’t going to push himself too much too soon, especially considering the marathon that is the NBA season being two weeks away and the end of the season being at least two trimesters away.

Baby steps.

“It responded good,” said Gibson, referring to the ankle. “Just getting my legs back under me. The coaching staff kept me in tune. They were proud of me, understanding it’s a long process of rehab and pushing through a lot of late nights. It was fun just to be out there.”

With Bobby Portis emerging, the Bulls don’t have to rush Gibson to make sure the valuable reserve is ready to play 30 minutes a night in November.

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But if the Bulls plan on using their big lineup in some form, with Nikola Mirotic playing small forward, either Portis or Gibson should be playing power forward to add some athleticism and speed to the lineup.

“Yeah, every night Bobby comes in,” Gibson said. “I already see his determination. He gets up shots late. I come in late at night too and he’s always in here. Scrimmages and practices, he’s always listening to me.”

He also made his voice heard when discussing the state of the defense, which hasn’t been to anybody’s satisfaction thus far. Jimmy Butler voiced his concerns after Monday’s game against New Orleans, and the Bulls were still a step or three slower than their usual standards Wednesday.

“It’s our defense it’s too…it’s lackadaisical,” Gibson said. “We’ve got guys who are capable of doing a lot better. Speaking as a veteran, we got to do a lot better as a team.”

“Young guys have to lock in a lot better and that’s our fault, we have to challenge them in practice. These things are correctable. Our offense has been great. I saw it out there it was wide open. It takes time, we got a lot of games, a couple more practices out there. We’ll look at the film and it’ll tell us what we need to do.”

But at least his ankle isn’t in the back of his mind, so he can perform to as close to peak efficiency as his own standards have shown.

“It feels a lot stronger. No pain,” Gibson said. “I feel I’m jumping a lot better, a lot higher. Just having fun. My teammates are just making it fun again.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: Getting to know the Bulls Outsiders team; bold predictions for this season

NBC Sports Chicago

Bulls Talk Podcast: Getting to know the Bulls Outsiders team; bold predictions for this season

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, the Bulls Outsiders team of Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine join Kevin Anderson to talk about the series premier of ‘Bulls Outsiders’ Thursday night. Hear about how the show came together and what they are hoping to bring to the Bulls fanbase this season. They’ll also share their bold predictions for the season including two potential end-of-season award winners from this roster.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

We all know what Zach LaVine is capable of doing on the offensive side of things. But what about his defense?

It's no secret that LaVine has had his fair share of struggles on defense, but Kris Dunn thinks highly of his 23-year-old teammate and what his potential is at the other end.

"On the defensive end I just told him, 'You're as fast as me. You're more athletic than me. There's no way you shouldn't be a good defender in this league. You could be one of those guys who could be dynamic in the passing lanes because you're so athletic and fast.'" Dunn said of LaVine. "And personally, I like to score. If you get in a passing lane, that's a dunk for yourself and because you've got so much bounce that's when you get the crowd on their feet — maybe do a windmill, a 360, something.

"But I think he's been going a good job on the defensive end. It's not going to be easy. We all got to learn and I think we're all trying."

Improving his defense would obviously be a big step forward for LaVine (and the Bulls), and he knows it. 

“I think I had a lot better focus on the defensive end,” LaVine said when assessing his preseason. “I had some mistakes too, but I wanted to go out there and just really hone in on being more focused down there. I felt like I did OK with that. Still some areas I want to get better at, definitely off-the-ball I think I did a lot better than I had before.’’

LaVine and the Bulls travel to Philadelphia to face the 76ers on Thursday night in their season opener. You can watch Bulls Pre- and Postgame Live on NBC Sports Chicago before and after the game for highlights and analysis.