Preps Talk

With deadline looming, Gibson still without contract extension

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With deadline looming, Gibson still without contract extension

Time is running out on the Bulls to come to an agreement with Taj Gibson on a contract extension, but the Bulls young power forward is taking the circumstances in stride as he readies himself for another season that begins tomorrow.

Gibson and the Bulls have until 11 p.m. CST tomorrow night to come to an agreement on an extension, or the 6-foot-9 forward will become a restricted free agent at the end of this season. The Bulls could still match any contract offer Gibson receives from another team in free agency, so his future in Chicago is not necessarily hinging on a deal getting done in the next 33 or so hours.

My agent and (Bulls general manager) Gar (Forman) are still working on it. Ill have to wait and see, Gibson said. Hopefully well get something done so I can just focus on basketball. Right now Im just focused on basketball.

Gibson said being in the middle of contract negotiations nearing a deadline is not fun at times, and he has coped with it by turning off his cell phone and, with the help of his teammates and coaches, focused on basketball and the arrival of the season.

But his agent, Mark Bartelstein, still has a job to do, and that means arriving with coffee and McDonalds breakfast as early as 6 a.m. to go over the latest updates on the negotiations.

Every morning its something new, Gibson said. But its a blessing to be in this position. Not many people can say they have a chance to get an extension from a great team like the Chicago Bulls. So Im just taking it in stride.

Gibson is one of a handful of players from the 2009 NBA Draft class looking for extensions as the deadline nears. Ty Lawson, the No. 18 pick, just secured a four-year, 48 million extension this afternoon. Notables such as Brandon Jennings, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Eric Maynor and Tyreke Evans, who Gibson will face tomorrow night, are still awaiting possible extensions before tomorrow's deadline.

The Bulls already have approximately 63 million in salaries committed for the 2013 season, but the talk all offseason has been that re-signing Gibson long-term remains a priority for Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson.

Most people are more focused on it than me. I dont even think about it, to tell you the truth, he said. I turn my cell phone off, go home and focus on the games ahead. Its gonna be a big year, and were just focusing on the Sacramento Kings.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said he hasnt been worried that the extension talks would be a distraction to his power forward, in part because players deal with commotion on a daily basis.

"Thats the thing about the NBA. Hes a terrific player but if you look, it could be a distraction every day, Thibodeau said. Theres an excuse, or you can stay focused and get the job done and hopefully thats what our team will do this year.

Whether Gibson inks a deal before the deadline, more will be expected from the fourth-year reserve. With a re-tooled bench and the loss of Derrick Rose for at least the first half of the season, Gibson knows its up to him to take on more of a leadership role as part of a collective effort to help the team succeed without their superstar.

For him, that begins with consistency. While sporadic minutes off the bench meant mixed results a year ago, Chicagos sixth man is beginning to carve out a role in the frontcourt, spelling starter Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.

It seems like whenever I need to step up I just pick it up a notch. I need to come in with the right mindset, and I need to bring effort every night, Gibson said. Thats one thing, Ive been a guy that watches the game, figures out where I need to pick it up on defense, or what I need to help in on offense, and just figure out plays like that. I just need to be much of a bigger role of a leader off the bench, to come in and be ready to play.

While time is ticking and uncertainty remains, Gibson reiterated his hope to remain in a Bulls uniform as long as possible. That decision may come in the next 24 hours, or it may not come until next summer. For now, Gibson has shifted that responsibility to his agent while he is focused on winning games.

Ive stressed it many times that I want to be here, but theres only so much I can really do besides take care of things on the basketball court, he said. I have to let my agent and Gar Forman handle the rest of the business.

Hes been great, and Gars been great, and were just trying to get this thing done.

Power Rankings: #10 - Homewood-Flossmoor

Power Rankings: #10 - Homewood-Flossmoor

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Homewood-Flossmoor

Head coach: Craig Buzea

Assistant coaches: Tom Cicero, Zac Wells, Alex Pratt, Daron Williams, Eric Schreiber Jr., Bart Czachor, David James, Josh Blair, Josh Forney and Matt Ramos

How they fared in 2017: 9-2 (6-1 Southwest Suburban Conference). H-F made the 8A state playoff field, defeated Lake Park then lost to Naperville Central in second round action. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 vs Michigan City (IN)

Sept. 1 vs Lutheran North (MO.) at East St. Louis

Sept. 7 vs Stagg

Sept. 14 @ Bolingbrook

Sept. 21 vs Lincoln-Way West

Sept. 28 @ Lincoln-Way East

Oct. 5 @ Bradley

Oct. 12 vs Andrew

Oct. 19 vs Sandburg

[MORE: 69 Days to Kickoff - Lincoln-Way West]

Biggest storyline: Can the Vikings, now without their dynamic WR/RB Justin Hall (NIU), get back to the postseason and play deeper into November?

Names to watch this season: QB Dominick Jones and DB Wynston Russell (Oregon State)

Biggest holes to fill: The Vikings have a good number of returning starters back in 2018 (five offense, six defense). The team boasts plenty of talent. But who can step up and be the go-to guy? Who replaces Justin Hall?

EDGY's Early Take: The Vikings have become a traditional power in Chicago's south suburbs and in the overall Class 8A field. Head coach Craig Buzea is looking for a breakout season and he has the ingredients in the program. The offense will be led by junior QB Dominick Jones. He has some firepower behind him in senior RB Leon Tanna. Keep an eye senior TE Jack Schmitz as well. The defense is also talent-heavy. Look for senior DL Isaiah Coe and senior DE/OLB Charlies Brooks to help carry the load. Oregon State commit senior DB Wynston Russell is the lone returning starter in the secondary.

With Roquan Smith and others, Bears moving closer to elite defense in a hurry

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USA TODAY

With Roquan Smith and others, Bears moving closer to elite defense in a hurry

As encouraging as some elements of the 2017 season was for the Bears defense, it wasn’t enough. Ranking in the top 10 in fewest points and yards allowed left linchpins like lineman Akiem Hicks setting “top five” as a declared goal.

With what has happened within the last 13 days – from the first preseason game vs. Baltimore through the long-anticipated arrival of Roquan Smith – the Bears have had arguably seen a handful of developments that could put “elite” within reach of a defense intent on being just that.

The developments have been the play of linebackers Kylie Fitts and Isaiah Irving, and now topped off by the Smith addition. The reasons are obvious – a linebacker-dependent defense (as all 3-4’s inherently are) has moved to the brink of realizing impact from not one, not two, but possibly three.

None is being given a leading role in an already good defense. But what they all represent are high-speed additions in a sport where speed rules and rivals pad-level in importance. Fitts and Irving have flashed off the edges, and Smith was the No. 8 pick of the draft for his speed in getting to targets, followed of course what he does to them when he gets there.

How any change occurs remains to play out, and Vic Fangio has used rotations in his front seven’s. One scenario could be Smith easing in as part of nickel packages, where the Bears have used a 4-2 front and would have Smith and Danny Trevathan as their ILB’s. Likewise, Fitts and Irving present edge options in that package as well as in base 3-4.

Perspective, please

Understand: No criticism of any sort is directed at either of the incumbents. No knock on Nick Kwiatkoski, who has in two seasons and this training camp established himself as an NFL inside linebacker. Nor is it a diss of Sam Acho, who is a physical edge presence with some pass-rush pop. The Bears need both, REALLY need both. 

But the 1983 Bears ranked fifth in the NFL in points allowed with Al Harris as part of a linebacker corps that included Mike Singletary and Otis Wilson. Jim Finks drafted Wilber Marshall in the 1984 first round and Ron Rivera in the second. Harris remained the starter but the Bears also jumped to third in points allowed with Marshall and first the two years after that.

Elite.

Hall of Fame defensive lineman Dan Hampton said years later that Marshall – nicknamed “Pit Bull”by teammates – was the single best individual player on that elite defense, and the player that took things to another level entirely. And as Marshall told Hall of Fame NFL writer Rick “Goose” Gosselin, who created the special-teams ranking system used by every NFL team and now hosts "Talk of Fame Radio:”

"They had Mike [Singletary] sitting on the sidelines when I’m playing middle linebacker on third down. So I wasn’t just a rush guy, like the guys on the end that you see them go 90 percent of the time."

Sounding like a bill of particulars for Smith.

Best guess that Smith – wearing the No. 58 that Marshall wore – will have a new level of impact for a defense that just added a piece with a chance to earn the designation of “elite.”

Fitts and Irving are younger, faster options on the edge. Fitts is bigger and faster (4.69 sec. 40) than Irving, but one can never be too rich, too thin or have too many edge rushers.

And Smith, who had 6.5 sacks last season at Georgia (his only credited sacks in three seasons there), projects to be the fastest Bears linebacker with a documented 4.51-sec. time in the 40 – faster than Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and…well, you get the point.

And speed is the route to “elite.”