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.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

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.”

All of our 2018 NBA Draft content in one convenient place


All of our 2018 NBA Draft content in one convenient place

The NBA Draft is upon us. And we've got all of our NBA Draft content in one place for you. How convenient.

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Carlos Boozer says Nate Robinson was one of his favorite teammate because 'he would bring snacks to every flight'

Carlos Boozer says Nate Robinson was one of his favorite teammate because 'he would bring snacks to every flight'

Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson only played one season together with the Bulls. But oh, what a memorable campaign it was.

And it produced a friendship that still lasts to this day. Cupcakes and snacks will do just that.

Boozer retold a story to NBC Sports Chicago on Tuesday of Robinson and his daughter, Navyi, baking cupcakes for Bulls players on road trips.

"We had so much fun. Me and Nate hit it off right away," Boozer said. "We're both very animated, we're both very loud, we talk a lot, we're great teammates. We love playing passionately, we compete.

"Nate is one of the best teammates I ever had. I played my whole life, I've been playing a long time and he's the only teammate that would bring snacks to every flight. And we'd travel on the road, he would bake us cupcakes for every road game. I never had that before.

"Him and his daughter, Navyi, would bake the cupcakes before every road game. So every road game we'd get to the plane and Nate would hook us up with cupcakes.

"Just a great teammate. He'd go through a brick wall for you, never complained, practice every day, play every day, ready to come and give it his best."

Boozer and Robinson will face off against each other during the Big3 Tournament, which begins this weekend in Houston. The league will travel to Chicago and the United Center on June 29.

"I'm looking forward to being in Chicago," Boozer said. "We've got a lot of great fans out there. I miss the (United Center), miss that Chicagotime summer weather and looking forward to getting back out there in a couple weeks."

Boozer's Ghost Ballers and Robinson's Tri-State team won't square off against one another until Week 5 in Miami. But it's sure to be a fun matchup for the two friends and snack buddies.

"He's one of my brothers, one of my closest friends," Boozer said. "Nate has been training like an animal and he's gonna use this platform to show everybody how much skills he has, also to get back into the NBA. Nate's a great talent and I'm looking forward to seeing him get down."

Boozer's team includes co-captains Mike Bibby and Ricky Davis, which gives them a pretty solid trio heading into the event. But no teammate, NBA or Big3, can match Nate Rob and his cupcakes.

Check out more on the Big3 right here.