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Report: Taj Gibson ‘absolutely’ would’ve left Bulls in free agency if they didn’t trade him

Chicago Bulls v Brooklyn Nets

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: Taj Gibson #22 of the Chicago Bulls reacts after being called for a foul against the Brooklyn Nets during the first half at Barclays Center on October 31, 2016 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

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Last year, the Bulls kept Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol – both on expiring contracts – past the trade deadline with the apparent intent of re-signing them. Noah (Knicks) and Gasol (Spurs) walked in free agency, leaving Chicago with no return.

The Bulls didn’t fall into the same trip this year. The traded their veteran big man on expiring contract, Taj Gibson, to the Thunder.

Why the different approach?

Gibson was clearly headed in a different direction.

Ken Berger of Bleacher Report:

Gibson, 31, was absolutely going to leave as a free agent this summer, league sources say. The Bulls were not going to re-sign him.

There are numerous possible reasons Gibson would have been intent on leaving Chicago. But, even though Gibson was Fred Hoiberg’s most vocal public supporter in the locker room, this will only intensify questions about how much veterans respect Hoiberg. Jimmy Butler keeps saying he wants to stay with the Bulls, and even that invites questions about his relationship with his coach. Hoiberg just hasn’t inspired much confidence.

This could also be about the Bulls. How interested were they in keeping Gibson? They have semi-interesting young bigs in Cristiano Felicio, Bobby Portis and maybe still Nikola Mirotic (and Joffrey Lauvergne, acquired in the Gibson trade). It could be time to test them.

Chicago’s direction is unclear, and perhaps Gibson saw the writing on the wall. He’ll turn 32 before free agency, the clock on his remaining productive years winding down. His fit with the Bulls was no longer great, and apparently that was realized already.