In the first practice of training camp, Gibson logged some minutes at center, a move coach Tom Thibodeau hinted at during the offseason. Gibson happily reported he blocked one of Joakim Noah’s new sky-hook attempts.
If the Bulls go small at times, Gibson is eager to help.
I’m excited to see Taj get more burn at center. According to 82games.com, Gibson did pretty well when playing center, posting PER of 26.2 per 48 minutes while holding opposing centers to a PER of 6.6. I realize the sample size is small — Taj spent most of his time at power forward — but the overall results seem promising.
Said Gibson: ”I feel great about [playing center]. I played it today against Joakim … I had a great first day playing center. I look forward to playing it some more. As long as my teammates have confidence in me and we play solid defense I don’t have a problem playing (center).”
With Derrick Rose out indefinitely, the Bulls obviously would like Gibson to score a few more points than last season’s 7.7 PPG average. And it appears Gibson has been working on his offense during the offseason.
Said Gibson: ”I just tried to get more consistent with my jump shot. Worked a lot with Thibs right before USA camp, just trying to get more fluid with post work. Get more confidence, get stronger because we lost Omer in the off-season, try to just get more physical.”
I’d definitely like to see a more physical Gibson. I’d much prefer him doing his damage around the basket (where, according to Hoopdata, he converts 65.7 percent of his field goals) than shooting jumpers (where he hits 37.2 percent from 10-15 feet and 34.0 percent from 16-23 feet).
I really can’t get behind the concept of Gibson as a jump shooter. He can hit outside shots…but not efficiently. Back to the 82games.com data: Last season, 54 percent of Gibson’s shot attempts were jumpers. And 83 percent of those attempts were assisted. Unfortunately, his Effective Field Goal Percentage on those shots was 37.4 percent.
So I’m glad Gibson worked on his jumper, because he needs to be able to hit them, but what he needs is more attempts where he at his most effective and efficient: around the basket.
As for the elephant in the room — the Bulls have until October 31 to sign Gibson to a contract extension or else he will become a restricted free agent next summer — Taj claims he’s not worried about it.
Said Gibson: ”I can only worry about basketball. I can only worry about what I can take care of on the court. I’m listening to my agent Mark Bartelstein and I’ll let (Bulls GM) Gar Forman and (Gibson’s agent Mark Bartelstein) worry about that. Right now I’m just worried about getting better with my teammates, and so far it’s been great. … Right now I’m not even thinking about [the contract situation]. I’m thinking about wearing the Bulls jersey for as long as I can. Right now that’s the only thing I’m worried about.”
As to whether the Omer Asik situation has affected his thinking — Asik signed that huge offer sheet with the Rockets over the summer and the Bulls declined to match it — Gibson said: ”I’m just happy for Omer. He really just let his game speak for itself. He really didn’t get into, ‘Oh, he wants to leave,’ or anything like that. He just let his agent handle it and let things fall into (place) but right now I can’t focus on that. I can only focus on what I can take care of and that’s basketball and worry about the things that are going (happening) on the basketball court. I can’t worry about things with my agent, what Gar’s going to say about money. I can’t worry about those things right now.”
It’s great that Gibson is talking that way, and it keeps with the current regime’s no-nonsense / all-business attitude, but it would be naive to think that the situation is not on Gibson’s mind. It’s his future, after all, and there aren’t many people who would be able to wipe that from their minds completely.
Said Bartelstein: “At the end of the day, your value’s always what someone’s willing to pay you. So I think there’s no question he’d like to be a Bull. He loves it here. The fans have treated him great.”
“This is obviously a really important contract for him. He’s in the prime of his career. He just wants to make sure when it’s time to sign something, there’s no regrets. He doesn’t look back and say, ‘What if?’ or anything like that.”
Translation: This is business and loyalty likely won’t sway Gibson if he has the chance to make more money elsewhere.
A quick peek at the ShamSports salary numbers will show you that the Bulls have almost $60 million committed to four players next season — Carlos Boozer, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Luol Deng — which means extension money will be tight…even if the Bulls use the amnesty clause to dump Boozer’s contract.
The good news is that the Bulls won’t get their hands tied in quite the same way they did with Asik this season. Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald explains:
One significant difference with Gibson is he was a first-round draft pick and is playing his fourth NBA season. That gives him “Bird Rights,” which means the Bulls can exceed the salary cap to re-sign him. They can basically pay Gibson anything up to the maximum salary.
Asik was a second-round pick who had played in the league just two years. That made him what’s known as an “early-Bird” free agent. Since the Bulls were over the cap, they could re-sign him for no more than $5 million and $5.2 million over the first two years of the new contract.
Houston was under the cap and therefore able to tack on the balloon payment. The Bulls could have matched the deal but would have owed a huge luxury-tax bill — quite a price for a backup center.
The reality is this: The Bulls are very nearly a mortal lock to re-sign Gibson, whether it’s this fall or next summer, if for no other reasons than his value (and his perceived value) is high and it’s something of an open secret that the Bulls are simply waiting for the opportune moment to amnesty Boozer’s deal.
It’ll be interesting to see if the situation gets resolved by the end of the month.