Taj Gibson is back just in time


Oct 28

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Sometimes you have to hear the truth to shake you out of your lethargy. Taj Gibson needed to as well.

Because he works so hard, says so little, makes no excuses and really will do whatever the team wants instead of just saying it, Gibson tends to get taken for granted. Like the guy at work who runs out for lunch for everyone every day and never complains. It just becomes expected.

But Taj hadn’t been Taj this season, and the Bulls were getting very worried, very, very worried. Without Carlos Boozer and given Joakim Noah isn’t exactly a scorer and with no adequate shooting guard emerging, the Bulls suddenly needed Gibson badly, and he was reeling.

He hadn’t worked as hard as he should have this summer, he knew, recovering from the plantar fasciitis of last season. And he was devastated about the death of a pair of close friends, Gibson frequently commenting about them and acknowledging how much he missed them on social media this past summer.

So the Gibson who showed up for the Bulls this season wasn’t even playing as well as the unheralded rookie Gibson who showed up at Bulls camp a year ago.

He averaged 6.5 points in the preseason and a pathetic 2.8 rebounds. He shot 43 percent. He was, amazingly, becoming a liability, badly regressing, looking slow and disinterested. The Bulls were becoming nervous. Not this guy. They never thought it would happen with this guy. If there was anyone they could count on it was this guy.

But even the hardest workers and best guys need a wakeup call, and Gibson said he got one the other day from assistant Ron Adams, and it made an impact.

“Coach Adams came to talk to me,” said Gibson. “He said I had to get back to being the Taj Gibson of last year. He told me I wasn’t and he was right. I needed to do something about it.”

Gibson did, and it played a major role in the Bulls playing a heck of an entertaining and competitive game against the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday until losing in the final minutes.

Gibson shot eight of 12 for 16 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had a pair of steals. He took the ball hard to the basket and dunked like we hadn’t seen since last season.

With Boozer out another month, it will be ever more important for Gibson to continue with production on that level, and against the Pistons in the home opener Saturday it is a good time to continue as Detroit has an unusually weak front line starting ancient Ben Wallace and skinny Austin Daye.

But it takes more than just showing up.

Gibson, who was renowned last season for a relentless work effort, admits he let down this summer.

“I had a short summer,” Gibson concedes. “I didn’t get a chance to work out like I should have with the injury.”

Gibson also said he returned more frequently to his New York home because of the events transpiring in his personal life.

“I didn’t really get a chance to push myself,” Gibson said.

Then he came to camp and admitted he sat back and studied more than he should have. Some around the Bulls wondered if it was the personal issues. Others guessed that even though Gibson always said the right thing, it had to have an effect that he was a starter and the Bulls priority was to fill his position and no matter what he does or how good he plays, he’ll be returning to the bench once Boozer returns.

Gibson said he decided to go slowly with the new personnel, and he said he’s thrilled the Bulls have Boozer and, if anything, was set back when Boozer went out because he so enjoyed learning from him those first few days of camp.

“In preseason camp,” said Gibson, “I was trying to figure out the whole team sets, the offense, the defense, and it was tough because I had that short summer.”

As a result, he didn’t work around the team as much as he would have liked, especially later in the off season, and he did have some serious distractions.

But by the looks of opening night, Gibson was back, and it was none too soon for the Bulls.

“I take responsibility,” said Gibson. We have to be better and work harder and we’ll be ready or the next game.”

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