Rookies Johnson and Gibson learning the ropes


Oct 5

By Adam Fluck

LONDON—The good news for James Johnson and Taj Gibson was that they remembered to bring their pink backpacks on Monday morning. One features Dora and Boots, while the other highlights several Disney princesses and characters from over the years.

Rookies_091005 The bad news, though, was that they forgot to bring the team’s practice gear, a rookie responsibility when the team is on the road.

As a result, Johnson, Gibson and Derrick Byars, the team’s other rookie, ran stairs at the conclusion of practice at the O2 arena in London as teammates cheered and jeered.

Ah, life as an NBA rookie.

But it hasn’t been all bad for the Bulls’ pair of first round draft picks, as they both logged minutes in the opening preseason win against the Pacers, and Gibson even managed to lead the team in scoring with 19 points. He added nine rebounds in 30 productive minutes off the bench.

“I was just out there playing,” said Gibson. “Guys found me and I was able to hit a bunch of key shots. I’ve been working hard in practice, trying to prove my game every day. I’ll wait until my number is called again.”

Head Coach Vinny Del Negro said he was pleased with the rookies’ effort in camp, and he looked forward to taking advantage of their versatility and length.

At 6-9, 245 pounds, Johnson, selected by Chicago with the draft’s 16th overall pick, brings a lot of assets to the table and a rare combination of talents. Capable of filling in at small forward or power forward, he’s demonstrated a nice shooting touch and is also able to find the open man.

“Putting on the jersey felt great,” said Johnson. “We worked hard in the summertime, so to finally have an opportunity to play was amazing. I was definitely anxious before the game. It wasn’t college anymore; we were going up against a real NBA team. But the real excitement for me is when we get to put on the home jersey and play in front of our fans.”

Aches and pains:
For the second day in a row, Derrick Rose and Tyrus Thomas sat out of the team’s practice at O2 arena.

Rose said that his aching heel felt better, but that he was still not able to run on it. He will receive treatment and test it out Tuesday, but the decision on whether or not he plays in the team’s exhibition against the Utah Jazz will likely be the training staff’s to make.

Thomas, meanwhile, has been sidelined by a sore hip that is the product of taking a charge on Friday in Indiana. He was kneed on the play, has been receiving treatment, and is hopeful that it will get better in the next few days. He planned to test the hip at Tuesday’s shootaround to determine his status for tomorrow’s game.

Team management has made its renewed commitment to defense this season well known. Thomas, with his shot blocking and rebounding capabilities, can play a huge role in a defensive resurgence. So far, he says, the team has made strides towards that goal.

“We’ve been doing a better job talking and rotating,” said Thomas. “Helping each other out is obviously very key. For me, I’ve always tried to get into the passing lanes and block shots. Defense is definitely something I’ve come to focus on.”

Coach checks in:
Listen in as Head Coach Vinny Del Negro shares his thoughts on Monday's practice in London, the absences of Rose and Thomas, coming together as a team, and the focus on defense:

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