Bulls: Taj Gibson played through ligament tear, nearing return


Bulls: Taj Gibson played through ligament tear, nearing return

Deerfield— Taj Gibson didn’t perform with his usual spunk during the Bulls’ second-round playoff loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, which could partly be attributed to the ankle issues he’s endured over the years.

He underwent ankle surgery in June before the draft, but when the doctors went in they discovered he had a torn ligament Gibson merely played through.

“I didn’t know I could play with that much pain but I just tried to help my team win,” Gibson said at his City Basketball ProCamp Saturday morning. “I think it was a good thing for me to do the surgery. I’ve never been hurt this much. It was good for my career and for myself.”

Gibson’s 2014-15 was filled with nicks and bruises, but he still shot a career-high 50 percent from the field while averaging double-figures for the second time in his six-year career (10.3 points) along with 6.4 rebounds.

His production slowed in the postseason but he was still a net-positive on the floor despite the injury.

“We didn’t know it was a torn ligament. It was on the completely opposite side of the foot,” Gibson said. “When he finally went in during surgery, he was astounded how I was able to still play. He said he never knew anybody who could play through so much pain. I just thought it was normal. He was surprised I was even able to run or lift off it. That’s how bad it was.”

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Where he’ll start this season remains to be seen due to recovery from the injury, as the Bulls want him to take his time before coming back to full speed. After all, Gibson’s reached veteran status and many 30-year olds don’t mind skipping the early grind of training camp.

But with a chance to put an early stamp on a new coaching regime, he’s itching to get back, running, cutting and doing one-on-one drills. The four-month recovery prognosis means he shouldn’t be back until mid-October, as the eight-game preseason tips off.

“I’m going to try to go as hard as I can,” Gibson said. “I’ve been feeling great. But Coach Fred and everybody just wants me to take it slow. They told me to keep working. They understand how hard I’ve been working on my rehab and staying in tune with the team and coaching staff.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg was familiar with Gibson even before Gibson was drafted by the Bulls in 2009, going as far as giving him advice on free throw shooting when Hoiberg was a member of the Timberwolves’ front office.

“He was one of the guys I was always eager to know,” Gibson said. “He would give me feedback on my play. It was great. He fits my style of basketball. We talked over the summer and he was constantly telling me how much I left on the table and how my style of basketball lets me play.”

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The biggest change from Hoiberg and former coach Tom Thibodeau—aside from the obvious lack of friction with the front office—is Hoiberg’s offensive philosophy, which isn’t as restrictive and more player-controlled. Gibson, like every other Bull on the roster, feels a sense of upcoming freedom.

“Not taking anything away from Thibs and the way we played. He was a great coach, taught me a lot,” Gibson said. “(But) moving from that kind of offense to this kind of offense is going to be exciting. I really feel like I was used to running in my California days. Coach Fred and Coach (Tim) Floyd (Former Bulls coach) adopted the kind of system I liked to play.”

Now it’s just a matter of when Gibson will be back on the floor.

Kris Dunn to miss 4 to 6 weeks with MCL sprain

Kris Dunn to miss 4 to 6 weeks with MCL sprain

The hits keep coming for the Bulls, and after the latest one it might be time to fire up the 2019 mock drafts.

Fred Hoiberg revealed Tuesday before practice that point guard Kris Dunn suffered a moderate sprain of his left MCL in Monday’s loss to the Mavericks and will miss the next 4 to 6 weeks.

“To have him out of the lineup for an extended period, it’s extremely difficult,” Hoiberg said. “When you have a guy who is out there and really made strides over the course of last season and the summer he had and the way he played during training camp, it’s difficult to miss him.”

It’s yet another freak injury for Dunn, who suffered the injury midway through the second quarter while landing after a layup over DeAndre Jordan. Last year Dunn suffered a dislocated finger in the preseason and then suffered a concussion that cost him 11 games. A toe injury then ended his season as the tanking Bulls shut him down for the final 14 games.

But Dunn was expected to play a significant role in Year 2 of the Bulls’ rebuild. As well as leading the team in assists and being the most sure-handed closer, Dunn’s defensive prowess was going to help a Bulls team that finished 29th in efficiency and lost David Nwaba, perhaps their second best defender, in the offseason.

Even prior to Dunn’s injury the Bulls had been addressing the position behind him, claiming Tyler Ulis off waivers on Oct. 14 and signing Shaq Harrison on Sunday. They opted to keep Ryan Arcidiacono on the final roster and will now rely on some combination of those three behind Cam Payne, who tied a career high with 17 points on Saturday against the Pistons.

That’s why Dunn’s injury could affect the team more than Lauri Markkanen’s or Denzel Valentine’s. The Bulls were able to cover up Markkanen’s absence with Bobby Portis and free agent acquisition Jabari Parker, while they invested a first-round pick in wing Chandler Hutchison and guaranteed Antonio Blakeney’s contract over the summer.

There’s quantity on the Bulls’ depth chart behind Dunn, but quality is another story.

“Cam had his best game of maybe his career a couple games ago against Detroit,” Hoiberg said. “He has some things he can build on. The biggest thing at that position is you have to get us organized at both ends of the floor. That’s where Kris had taken a big step in the right direction with that. Arcidiacono is one of the better communicators and hardest-playing guys on our team. We’ve got guys who have some starting experience. It’s big shoes to fill. But I’m confident our guys will give great effort.”

It could mean more ball-handling responsibilities for Zach LaVine, who has been a terror in pick-and-roll sets three games into the season. Though he’s only averaged 2.7 assists, the Bulls offense has been humming, with his 32.3 points per game leading the way. Using LaVine as a primary ball handler could allow Hoiberg to run a point guard-less offense and mix and match the other backcourt position.

They’ll have to do it on the fly. The group of point guards the Bulls will face in the next 11 days include Kemba Walker (Charlotte) twice, Trae Young (Atlanta), Steph Curry (Golden State), Jamal Murray (Denver), Darren Collison (Indiana) and James Harden (Houston). It could get a lot worse for the Bulls before it gets any better, and with Markkanen, Valentine and now Dunn on the mend. 

For those looking into such things three games into the season, the Bulls are currently tied with the Thunder, Cavaliers and Lakers for the worst record in the league. The NBA changed its Lottery rules for this upcoming season, with the three worst teams in the league all sharing the same odds at receiving the top pick in the draft.

We've officially found the biggest Michael Jordan fan ever

We've officially found the biggest Michael Jordan fan ever

There are diehard Michael Jordan fans.

And then there's this guy.

Forget anybody getting a tattoo of their favorite team's championship trophy. Forget the people who wait for hours in terrible weather just to catch a glimpse of their favorite player.

This dude has a constant, 24/7 reminder of "His Airness":

Yep, that is a full tattoo of a Jordan "23" jersey on his back, complete with a Michael Jordan "autograph" in the middle of the "2." 

Dedication at its finest.

Couple questions: 

A) Does it carry over to the front at all? And if not, is that a plan for the future?

2) Will one of his buddies get a "45" Jordan jersey tattoo or are we just gonna continue to pretend that era never happened?

D) What will that tat look like in a few years? That guy better stay away from the Doritos...