Bulls

Bulls: Taj Gibson pays no mind to trade rumors

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Bulls: Taj Gibson pays no mind to trade rumors

With each game, Bobby Portis grows into more than a rotation player, more into a big piece of the Bulls’ future.

And with the crowded frontcourt being crowded as the injuries pile up for the swingmen, with Mike Dunleavy’s status unknown and Doug McDermott undergoing an MRI on his right knee, the rumor mill will keep swirling for the Bulls to make a change to balance out their roster.

Such circumstances could bring about mixed feelings for a veteran like Taj Gibson, who would be a hot name if the Bulls put him on the market—and depending on whom you believe, the front office has already put out feelers on the likes of Gibson, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol.

But Gibson, who’s adopted Portis and taken to him in practices and now games, doesn’t see it that way.

“What do you mean mixed feelings? It’s never mixed feelings,” said Gibson to CSNChicago.com on his way out of the United Center Monday night after the Bulls’ win over the Toronto Raptors.

Gibson was asked if Portis’ emergence could give the Bulls the confidence to trade someone, even himself, prompting his respectful but clear answer.

“At the end of the day I care about my teammates. I don’t worry about all that. If he plays well it’s good for us, it’s good for the team. I want him to succeed. At the end of the day, we’re millionaires. We play a game.”

There hasn’t appeared to be much movement around the league as far as trades, in large part due to the clunky nature of the Eastern Conference. There’s a 1.5-game separation between the second-seeded Atlanta Hawks and eighth-seeded Miami Heat, and teams appear to be in wait-and-see mode before making roster moves.

[RELATED: Bobby Portis shining for Bulls after opportunity]

Gibson seemed to take things in stride, as his gritty play, low-maintenance attitude and affordable contract makes him attractive to other teams. He’s the Bulls’ best low-post defender, defensive rebounder and finisher above the rim.

“Nah, my name has been in rumors my whole career. You look at things like that, it’s part of the game,” Gibson told CSNChicago.com. “At the end of the day, I play in the NBA. I can’t complain. I go out there and do my job. Whatever happens will happen. I play for the Chicago Bulls, it’s the jersey I’m wearing.”

Ports has soaked up all the knowledge given by Gibson and Noah, as the latter is sidelined by a shoulder injury.

“Man, tremendously. He's helped me a lot,” said Portis of Gibson. “He's like the big brother I never had. I've always been the big brother to all my basketball teams I've played on, I always had to be that guy to uplift people and he's uplifting me to the utmost. I really credit it to him because he always just gives me kind words every day.”

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Portis’ energy is palpable and his production is starting to meet the expectations of a player who was billed as a lottery pick but up until recently could only display his talent in practices.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” Gibson said. “Bobby’s one of those guys, he’s a young guy but he’s so eager. He challenges you every day in practice. It’s like going against one of those old Boston Celtics.”

“I told guys on the team: Rookies always work their way in. From Jimmy (Butler), myself, Joakim. Everybody always works their way in and earns their minutes. You see Bobby, he’s earning his minutes. He’s doing it the right way. He’s coming to practice, busting his tail, putting the work in, never complaining, that’s the right way. He may get criticism for coming in and not playing early like other guys, but we’re molding him right. You see tonight, it’s gonna make him an even better player later in the season.”

The work has earned Gibson’s respect and admiration, and he’s followed the tradition set forth by the veterans who took him under their wing, as in former Bulls Brad Miller, Tyrus Thomas and current Bull Noah.

“A lot of guys that had a lot of faith in me. But I had to work my way through it,” Gibson said. “Same with Jimmy, he had to work his way through the wild. Everybody had to work their way to get those quality minutes. It’s a testament to how hard we practice, a testament to how we believe in each other. It’s gonna make him a better player, watch when I tell you that.”

Lineup changes could be on the way for Bulls: 'It's still up in the air'

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USA TODAY

Lineup changes could be on the way for Bulls: 'It's still up in the air'

It’s tough to call the position battle for the backup point guard spot on a Lottery-bound team important, but here we are two days into the Bulls’ season.

It won’t move the needle in NBA circles and Dwane Casey won’t be putting in additional time getting ready for Saturday’s game, but there appears to be potential for change in Fred Hoiberg’s rotation.

One day after an embarrassing display in a season-opening loss to the Sixers, Hoiberg said the Bulls have yet to make a decision on a potential lineup change for tomorrow’s affair against the Detroit Pistons. Kris Dunn, who missed Thursday’s game for the birth of his first child, was not at practice on Friday and may or may not be available for the home opener.

That could prompt changes after Cam Payne, inserted into the starting lineup, was largely ineffective, failing to score on 0 of 4 shooting in 21 minutes.

“We’re gonna see how practice goes today and then make that decision,” Hoiberg said. “It’s still up in the air on what we’re gonna do.”

The loss certainly can’t fall on just Payne, as the Bulls went lifeless after a 41-point first quarter that had them in the lead after 12 minutes. From there the Sixers outscored them by 29 in the second and third quarters, facing little resistance from a Bulls defense that doesn’t appear to have made much improvement from a year ago, Dunn or no Dunn.

Philadelphia shot 48 percent from the field, scored 20 fast-break points and 46 points in the paint, cruising to 102 points through three quarters before reserves finished things off. Even with Dunn the defensive prospects don’t look good, meaning Hoiberg might have to make changes to ignite the offense that scored just 35 points in those second and third quarters.

The Bulls could go a few different routes. Zach LaVine’s hot hand in the first quarter – 15 points on 6 of 7 shooting – saw the ball in his hands, and he even added two assists.

“It's a collective effort. You've got to have all five guys out there trying to play the right way and again, we found a recipe with Zach, especially in that first unit, where we let him bring the ball up the floor,” Hoiberg said. “We ran a couple actions where he was the facilitator and we put Cam in the corner. So a lot of that will be dictated by who has it going on a particular night and last night it happened to be Zach, so he was the one that was doing a lot of facilitating.”

Past a point guard-less lineup, the backups to Payne – Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis – could also see extended minutes going forward.

Arcidiacono had 8 points and 8 assists in 28 minutes, though the majority of those stats came in garbage time. Still, he hit a pair of 3-pointers and didn’t turn the ball over, and five of his assists resulted in makes at the rim.

Ulis, acquired off waivers last week, could inject some life into the second unit.

“He’s ready. He’s done a good job in practice,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve gone through the system with him as far as what we expect and if there’s a point in the game where he can go out there and we feel he can help us, I’m confident that he’ll go out there and give us good effort.”

The point guard rotation isn’t the key to unlocking the Bulls as a lockdown defensive team, or no longer suffering the offensive dry spells that happened Thursday. But in a season that’s already showing signs of adversity, shaking up the lineup might be Hoiberg’s only chance.

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Picture yourself at 19 years old.

Maybe you were in college. Maybe you hit the job market early.

What you likely weren’t doing was guarding one the NBA’s best centers in your first professional game.

That was the task charged to Wendell Carter Jr. in the Bulls’ 127-108 loss to the 76ers in the season opener at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday.

Carter Jr. was the seventh overall pick in the NBA draft after just one season at Duke. He earned the start in his NBA debut after an impressive preseason, but nothing could’ve prepared him for going up against Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Carter Jr. said when asked if Embiid was as impressive as he thought he’d be. “He’s a phenomenal player. He’s one of, or the best, big man in the league. Very skilled, very poised. He knows his spots on the court.

“I didn’t go out there with my best effort. It’s just a learning experience for me.”

Carter Jr. had eight points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 20 minutes. He also picked up four fouls, which the rookie attributed to the physicality and craftiness of Embiid.

But he did flash the impressive and varied skill set that made him a high pick and such a coveted prospect. He was also able to garner the praise of the Bulls’ veterans.

“Even though Wendell got in foul trouble he was still playing (Embiid) solid,” Zach LaVine, who scored a team-high 30 points, said. “That’s a tough first game right there. But he didn’t lack for confidence. Made him take some tough shots, but he’s going to make them. He’s that type of player.”

To his credit, Carter Jr. was candid about his performance. He admitted that his emotions ran the gamut from nervous to excited to happy.

In a season that will have its ups and downs as the young Bulls develop and learn, there will likely be more games like this against other elite NBA competition. It’ll be how Carter Jr. responds that will define his career.

“It’s the first game so I don’t want to put too much on myself,” Carter Jr. said. “It would be different if it was like the 50th game or 60th game. It’s the first game. We’re just going to move on from it. We’ve got our home opener on Saturday (vs. the Pistons). That’s where my mind is right now.”

See, he’s learning already.