The fact that the Minnesota Timberwolves are bringing up the rear in the NBA standings doesn’t matter much to Taj Gibson, on the eve of their matchup tomorrow.
Part of it is because the Bulls can lose to teams like the Dallas Mavericks, the one squad with a worse record than Tom Thibodeau’s 6-18 team. And the other, well, it’s pretty obvious being that Gibson knows his former coach all too well to judge him by some mere record.
“Anytime you're going against Thibs, you go against a good coach, as far as game-planning,” Gibson said at Monday’s practice. “He's going to have those young guys ready. He knows personnel, he's one of those guys who's a guru when it comes to watching film. He's a real great tactician.”
Gibson said he isn’t necessarily looking forward to the game because he knows the young and talented Timberwolves will play hard—emphasis on “talented” considering Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine are perhaps the best young trio in the NBA.
“It's hard to watch him coach now because I understand the things they go through right now,” Gibson said. “I know that he wants to do a lot better, but it's the NBA.”
They just haven’t yet put it together yet, but Gibson knows Thibodeau’s style—that he’ll try to coax whatever grit is out of that roster and manifest it on the floor. Gibson remembers the practices and games for five years under Thibodeau, with the scars to prove it.
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“He was hard-nosed coach and he loved to have his players go lay it on the line,” Gibson said. “Every practice, we played hard. Every game we went out there and played hard. Everybody knew what kind of team we were.
“We were a hard-nosed defensive kind of team and we were going to play hard to the last man on the bench. From the number of injuries we had, it really meant that way because everybody on our team got better even from top to bottom, we were always together and we played hard.”
In Gibson’s second year in the NBA and Thibodeau’s first, the Bulls had the best record in the NBA and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. With a young core and a young MVP in Derrick Rose, one would’ve thought the Bulls would be a June fixture for years to come.
It never manifested itself, of course, because of Rose’s injuries, and as has been said plenty of times in the past few years, many have suggested the Bulls should’ve won a championship.
Gibson dished out the best dose of basketball reality when he said plenty of players and teams haven’t won championships, not just these Bulls.
“Without question, we had some great years. We were just never able to get it done,” Gibson said. “You can say injuries, you can say whatever you want. Whatever we had, we mustered up enough and we got things done. Just disappointed we didn't get a championship while he was here, because he especially deserved one the way he coached us.”