Bulls

Gibson seizing opportunity down the stretch

319787.jpg

Gibson seizing opportunity down the stretch

Monday, April 11, 2011
Posted: 10:43 a.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

NEW YORKWith all the gloom-and-doom talk the Bulls have been espousing lately, one would think the team didnt realize theyre a 60-win team and the Easts top seed for the upcoming playoffs. But while no can argue with the results that Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has gained from his striving-for-perfection approach, there are clearly some positive recent trends.

From the obvious, such as Derrick Roses comfort in the clutch and game management, to the more subtle, like Carlos Boozers playmaking abilitymaybe his scoring numbers arent always as gaudy as expected, but the power forwards ability to command a double team in the low post and set up his teammates for easy baskets has taken pressure off Rosethe Bulls goal of continuing to get better as the season goes on is being manifested in roles developing in an ongoing process.

An example: Taj Gibson. After an unexpected NBA all-rookie team debut campaign in which he started 70 regular-season gamesand supplanted Tyrus Thomas as a starter, perhaps hastening the former lottery picks departureGibson overcame a tough summer personally to pick up where he left off by filling in for the injured Boozer at the beginning of this season. But when Boozer returned to health, Gibson struggled with both injury woes and the adjustment of coming off the bench.

The second-year USC product has been inconsistent, but as of late, he has truly embraced his role as the Bulls first big man off the bench and an energy player.

At first, the beginning of the year, Thibodeau wanted me to start, take shots, play big minutes, rebound the ball and do my job. Then, it was just come off the bench, figure out your minutes, figure out less minutes, do what you need to do. Its all been learning steps my first two years in this league. Hes been around the league a long time, so hes just been helping me and telling me what I need to do: Play with a lot of pace, a lot of poise and go out there, play your game. Let everything fall out, just go out there and unleash, said Gibson, a New Yorker, who will have a homecoming of sorts in the Bulls game against the Knicks Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. Whenever he needs me to go out there and calm down a big that can really stretch the floor, and just try to contain him, he puts me in that role. He uses me in a lot of different roles.

WATCH: Top 5 Bulls Plays of the Week

With him, he just wants me to be ready and when I get in the game, dont worry about my minutes. Just play 100 miles-per-hour, just go out thereeven if I make mistakesand just play hard.

Gibson isnt always going to put up big numbers statistically with Boozer in front of him and a capable post-player rotationveteran Kurt Thomas and rookie Omer Asik can also play major minutes, depending on matchupsbut with starting center Joakim Noah still struggling with his timing since returning from a sprained right ankle, the Brooklyn, N.Y., native has been increasingly valuable. For instance, in Sundays win over Orlando, Gibson was key in containing the Magics Ryan Andersonwho started in place of suspended All-Star center Dwight Howard. Anderson is primarily a pick-and-pop big man, whose versatility gave Noah trouble.

I had to go against him for two years. In college, it seemed to me that he was shooting a little deeper, so I already had my eyes set on what Coach needed me to and thats one thing about our team, explained Gibson, who faced Anderson when both were Pacific-10 Conference stars in college. We have a lot of different big men for any situation, so when he called my name, I understood that he wanted me to show a lot, wanted me to stay out there on the wing and when they went to a smaller lineup, he wanted me to switch a lotone through fiveand I was ready and better equipped for that.

Gibsons efficient play and improved work ethic has earned praise from Thibodeauboth publicly and privatelywhich is no small feat.

Hes just been telling me that Ive been doing a good job with staying late, getting my reps in, working on my game, keeping my game crisp, getting better and taking advantage of the situations, just going in, play my game, playing with effort.

"I feel good. Ive been taking care of my body, revealed Gibson. One thing about Thibs, he lives in the gym and I have teammates that have been helping me get better in Derrick, Carlos, Joakim, Lu. Its been up and down all year, but theyve been sticking with me and its been getting better.
WATCH: Thibodeau not happy with Bulls' play against Magic, despite win

Taj has been playing terrific, whatever role you put him in. you play him at the four, you play him at the five, praised Thibodeau, who has been quietly been giving Gibson some of Noahs minutesHes got to do better. Hes capable. We need him. We need him to play better and he will, said the coach of his starting centerwhile the latter attempts to get back in the swing of things. He plays defense, he challenges shots, he blocks shots, he sets great screens, hes playing with a lot of energy.

He had some setbacks with injury, but hes gotten better as the seasons gone along. I think the biggest adjustment for him was going from being a starter to coming off the bench, Thibodeau went on to say about Gibson. I think hes comfortable with that now and of course, we know if he has to start, he can handle that great. But his shot-blocking ability to switch on pick-and-rolls, hes gotten much better with his jump shot from 17 feet, hes got a great jump hook inside.

Hes playing at a very high level for us right now.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls only score 73 points in loss to Charlotte

bulls_outsiders_podcast_website_listen_now.jpg
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls only score 73 points in loss to Charlotte

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, John Sabine, and David Watson react to the Bulls 83-73 loss to the Hornets.

0:30 - Will Perdue makes a cameo to start the show

1:00 - On only scoring 73 points

4:55 - Is this loss worse than the Celtics loss last season?

6:30 - Viewer comments on the loss and shooting too many threes

8:00 - Discussion on Thad Young minutes vs Lauri Markkanen minutes

12:10 - Viewer comment asking what would the Outsiders say if head coach

15:05 - Viewer comment on Tomas Satoransky

17:20 - Viewer trade idea for Terrance Ross

20:25 - Viewer comment on Coby White struggling

21:25 - Viewer comment on Kris Dunn starting

23:50 - Our ideas for other ‘theme’ nights for Bulls games

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

Bulls Outsiders

Subscribe:

Is the Bulls' defensive philosophy hurting their rebounding?

Is the Bulls' defensive philosophy hurting their rebounding?

Jim Boylen opened his press conference with a silver lining.

"If there's a positive in this difficult loss, it's in the past when we haven't been able to put the ball in the basket... We haven't guarded well," Boylen said. "I thought our defense was terrific tonight. I thought it kept us in the game, it gave us a chance."

There's some validity to that. Friday night, the Bulls allowed their adversary, the Charlotte Hornets, only 83 points. The Hornets shot 38% from the floor, 19.4% from 3-point range (31 attempts) and turned the ball over 21 times. On most nights, holding an opponent to those numbers is a recipe for success — even if the paltriness of said numbers was as much a result of the Hornets' sloppy play as anything.

Not in this one. The offense will shoulder most of the blame there: The Bulls shot only 30% from the field (they're the only team that's shot 30% or less from the field in a game this season, and they've done it twice) and 20.6% from 3-point range. According to Boylen, they shot 44% at the rim. Crucially, they were also outrebounded by Charlotte 60-45 — a disparity aided by the Bulls missing a whopping 63 field goals on the night. 

"They were crashing a lot of guys," Lauri Markkanen said. "We need to do a better job of boxing out. I feel like we did a good job defensively, but we just need to get the first rebound and limit their second-chance points."

The Hornets entered the night ranked 27th in rebound rate — which measures the percentage of missed shots a team is able to pull in — the Bulls 29th. For Charlotte, P.J. Washington (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Cody Zeller (11 points, 10 rebounds) both logged double-doubles, and Bismack Biyombo (12 points, nine rebounds) came close. As a team, they converted 11 offensive rebounds into 14 second-chance points. 

"They had 11 offensive rebounds. It seemed like they had more," Boylen, aptly, said. "Those plays are back-breakers."

Especially true in such a drudgy game. The Hornets led 44-40 at the halftime break, then 59-50 entering the fourth after outscoring the Bulls 15-10 in the third quarter. It was a game from a different era.

Thad Young rejected the notion that the Bulls were outmatched physically or undersized, relative to the Hornets.

"I think that's about us just going out there and making sure we get the ball, and us gang-rebounding," he said of the disparity on the boards.

Young cited the team's defensive philosophy — specifically, their strategy of blitzing and aggressively hedging in pick-and-roll coverage — as one factor in their inconsistency in this area. Bringing bigs up and away from the basket on those actions can often leave them out of position when the other team's eventual shot is put up (and off) the rim. 

"The way our defense is it kinda crossmatches us a little bit, because the big is generally trying to stop the guard from driving. Then when they hit the big, he's in the trail position, so their big has inside position on us, and then you have a big on the baseline or you have a cutter going baseline," Young said. "So it kinda puts us in a situation where we have to figure out who's gonna be in to get the rebounds and usually, the guys that's in there to get the rebounds are guards. Because they're sagging in on the weak-side or they're helping trying to get the big into position where he can rebound the basketball."

Wendell Carter Jr. had 11 boards on the night, but the Bulls' next-leading rebounder was Zach LaVine, with eight. Then Young with five.

But Young declined to label it a systemic issue, or even a communication one. 

"It's just something that kinda happens in the flow of the game," Young said. "Some games are gonna be different than others. Some games we're gonna be able to get our bigs back, and some games we're gonna depend on our guards to come in and rebound."

It seems that this is happening often, as of late. The Bulls have been outrebounded in 19 of their 27 games this season — they're 4-15 in said contests.

Of course, making shots would help, as well. Between the two teams, there were 112 missed field goals tonight. That's a lot of chances for rebounds, and the Hornets converted more than the Bulls tonight.

"Imma be honest with you, I don't really see too much they were doing [defensively]. We were just missing shots," Young said. "I had three for sure that just went in and came out, and a couple other guys had some so. I think it was just one of those nights."

It certainly was. Now, on to the next — Saturday night, when they fearsome Clippers come to town.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.