Bulls

Taj Gibson on Fred Hoiberg's national critics: 'Just shut up'

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Taj Gibson on Fred Hoiberg's national critics: 'Just shut up'

It doesn’t appear Taj Gibson will play Saturday against Detroit with a fractured rib, as he didn’t go through Friday’s practice after missing Thursday’s game against the Houston Rockets.

But the ambiguity that exists surrounding his status isn’t the case when one considers his position on coach Fred Hoiberg, as Hoiberg has come under fire in recent days from national media with the playoffs looming and the Bulls dangerously close to missing the postseason for the first time since 2008.

It’s been said and written Hoiberg doesn’t have the best support from the locker room, naming Gibson as one of the parties, but Gibson disputed the notion and supported the first-year coach.

“They need to just shut up,” Gibson said. “Everybody tries to discredit this man, and it's rough. He's a rookie coach taking on a veteran group. Give him some slack, man. It's hard enough as it is to come in. You've got the whole city of Chicago on your back. It's tough. But I think he's just learning. He's learning, he's doing a good job, he's staying with us, and I'm riding with him no matter what.”

Gibson’s relationship with Hoiberg has grown as the season has progressed, which has led to Gibson being more of a vocal player in the locker room. Not one for drama, Gibson is the closest thing to an enforcer on the roster, and he’s carried the no-nonsense approach everywhere else, essentially.

“Me and him have had long talks, especially over the break, from time to time,” Gibson said. “He really cares about the players. We've got to do our part to help us get wins and do what's right for him.”

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And what’s right for Hoiberg and Gibson could be sitting out, despite the crucial nature of the contest against the Pistons, which starts a back-to-back that ends Sunday in Milwaukee.

Gibson believes he injured himself against the Sacramento Kings on March 21, but it got progressively worse as he kept playing the same way and an injury like that will keep reminding you to sit until you do.

“It affects you as far as anything — raising your hands above your head, breathing, sitting down the wrong way,” Gibson said. “It’s just tough. The whole game, you have guys poking you. That’s the hardest part. I’ve been playing with it. I’ll try to just keep going.”

He’s tried using hard casts and wraps, but nothing has truly alleviated the pain. After all, it affects his breathing, so it’s more than just basketball.

“There’s nothing you can really do,” Gibson said. “The previous couple of games I’ve been playing with it, you just have to play through it. I wish I could figure out something I could do. We tried everything. When you play down low, you’re gonna get it. It’s real physical.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: A sprained MCL and Trubisky's performance. vs the Pats

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: A sprained MCL and Trubisky's performance. vs the Pats

David Haugh, Jordan Cornette, Shae Peppler join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- Mark Schanowski joins SportsTalk Live to discuss Kris Dunn’s sprained MCL, Fred Hoiberg’s tough luck and Zach LaVine postgame criticisms of the coaching. Plus they’ll discuss another 0-3 team- LeBron’s Lakers.

20:00 – The panel discusses Mitchell Trubisky’s performance vs. the Patriots. Jordan makes the case that the media is giving the former No. 2 pick a pass.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Bulls bracing for a Kemba Walker onslaught

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USA TODAY

Bulls bracing for a Kemba Walker onslaught

Through the opening week of the NBA season, Hornets' All-Star point guard Kemba Walker and former Bull Niko Mirotic share the league scoring lead, averaging 33 points per game.

Bulls' fans have seen these hot stretches from Niko before, and chances are he'll start moving down to the mid to high-teens before long. But Walker is a big-time scorer who's quietly emerged as one of the most consistently productive point guards in a league loaded with stars at that position. He's averaged over 20 points and 5 assists in each of the last three seasons, making the Eastern Conference All-Star team twice.

Last season, Walker lit up the Bulls for 47 points in an overtime loss at the United Center in November, making some of the most difficult shots you can imagine to keep his team in the game. He seems to be as this best when facing the Bulls and you can bet Fred Hoiberg and his staff will pull out all the stops to try to slow him down, especially with defensive ace Kris Dunn out 4-6 weeks after suffering a sprained left MCL in his season debut on Monday.

The Hornets made some personnel changes since last season. The one-year experiment with Dwight Howard at center is over. Howard put up solid numbers for Charlotte a year ago, but didn't make much difference in the win-loss column, so he's moved on to Washington in his NBA odyssey. Cody Zeller is now the starting center, backed up by Bismack Biyombo and former Benet Academy and University of Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky.

Charlotte tried to improve the athleticism on their roster by selecting Malik Monk and Miles Bridges in the first rounds of the last two drafts. Monk is getting more playing time this season, averaging 13.5 points in the Hornets' first four games. Bridges is averaging just under 16 minutes a game as a backup to starting forwards Marvin Williams and Nic Batum. Just like he did at Michigan State, Bridges is providing those highlight reel putback dunks, but it remains to be seen whether he'll develop a consistent enough outside shot to be a quality starter in the NBA.

The well-traveled Jeremy Lamb is now starting in the backcourt with Walker, and the Hornets brought in long-time Spurs' point guard Tony Parker to add some much needed experience and veteran savvy off the bench. Given the current state of the Eastern Conference (post-LeBron), it's not out of the question for this group to contend for one of the final playoff spots.

Here's what the Bulls need to do for a shot at their first win of the season. This also applies to the rematch in Charlotte on Friday.

1. CORRAL KEMBA. For whatever reason, seeing that Bulls' logo turns Walker into an almost unstoppable scoring machine. Walker is adept at working off his big men, either in straight pick and rolls or cutting through the post on give-and-go plays. He's one of the league's most creative scorers, and doesn't require much room to get his shot off. The Bulls' bigs will have to provide help on Walker whenever he comes off screens to keep him from taking over the game.

2. PUT THE BALL IN ZACH'S HANDS. Whether he's playing shooting guard or point guard, Zach LaVine needs to be the primary facilitator with Dunn sidelined. LaVine scored 34 points against Dallas Monday night on just 15 shots, which led to him questioning some of the offensive sets that were run in the 2nd half. LaVine told reporters on Tuesday that he smoothed things over with his head coach, explaining his comments were the result of the frustration he was feeling after a third-straight loss to open the season. Still, LaVine is on a major hot streak, joining Bulls' all-time greats Michael Jordan and Bob Love as the only players to start the year with three straight games scoring at least 30 points. The Bulls will need to ride that hot hand for as far as LaVine can carry them.

3. DEFEND THE 3-POINT LINE. You knew I would eventually get to this, right? Dallas made 15 of 47 3-point attempts on Monday after the Pistons knocked down 18 of 40 in a two-point win last Saturday. The Hornets have all kinds of capable 3-point shooters in Walker, Lamb, Monk, Batum and Williams (they're shooting .397 as a team on 3's), so guarding the arc will be crucial for the Bulls to have a chance at their first win.

Don’t forget you can catch Wednesday's game on NBC Sports Chicago and the new MyTeams by NBC sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 pm when Kendall Gill, Will Perdue and Kelly Crull join me for Bulls Pregame Live from the United Center Atrium. Neil Funk and Stacey King have the play-by-play call at 7 pm, then stay tuned after the final buzzer for Bulls Postgame Live and the always entertaining Bulls Outsiders.