The Latest from Priority Sports
The Latest from Priority Sports
Coach Tom Thibodeau used an intriguing comparison when discussing Luol Deng’s role for this season’s Timberwolves.
“He’s sort of in the role of Kurt Thomas when I was in Chicago,” Thibodeau said. “We knew (Thomas) would be ready. He filled in and did a great job.
“Lu’s a voice of reason. He says the right things, does the right things. He’s not in the rotation and he comes in every night to shoot. I think that example is key for our players. Luol’s probably not the same guy he was five years ago, but he’s still good. He’s capable of playing well in a game. I know that.”
Extending the 2010-11 Bulls metaphor, Taj Gibson is the, well, Taj Gibson for the Timberwolves — steady, dependable, ready to rebound and defend no matter the role.
It has been quite the career for Gibson, one of the most low-maintenance players in the NBA. Gibson averaged 7.1 points and 5.7 rebounds in 80 games, including 19 starts, for those Bulls, who drafted him out of USC with the 26th pick in 2009.
Now, he’s reunited with Thibodeau and starting. In fact, he has started all 102 games since signing a two-year, $28 million deal in free agency in 2017.
Gibson is averaging 10.8 points and 6.6 rebounds in 26.4 minutes. Those numbers are similar to his 10-year career averages of 9.8 points and 6.4 rebounds.
“Man, I’m still in the NBA. Every day is a blessing. Every day is fun,” Gibson said. “You get to get up, work out, play the game I love — which I would do for free — on any given day. Be around great guys and still grow. I’m having a great time.
“Everybody’s journey is different. You look at my rookie year, my draft class, so many guys not playing anymore. Look at the guys who were starting ahead of me when I was on the Bulls and a lot of them aren’t even in the NBA. I’m still very thankful of the moment, of the opportunity I get, and how I learn every day.”
Gibson paused, pointed to the lockers of Deng and Derrick Rose, his teammates then and now. He chuckled at the role reversals, how he now starts and those two former All-Stars — and in Rose, a former MVP — come off the bench.
Not that Gibson’s approach would change. He has started 347 times and come off the bench 340 times in his career.
“I’m always ready for any situation,” Gibson said. “I’m just loving playing the game,” Gibson said. “I just take care of my body and I have a young spirit all the time. I just love playing hard. When you give 110 percent, it’s easy.
“I’m a good teammate. When you give off good energy, it comes back to you. I never really ever hated on anybody, never tried to say anything negative. Just waited my turn, did what I had to do as far as coming off the bench or starting. I just wanted to help my team and my teammates. And that’s just positive energy. I’m always happy, always smiling.”
No wonder executive vice president John Paxson called Gibson one of his favorite Bulls when the organization traded him along with Doug McDermott and a second-round pick to the Thunder for Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow in February 2017. The Bulls held extension talks with Gibson that season but concluded he would sign a deal too rich for their liking in free agency.
Some players can’t handle Thibodeau’s coaching and relentless pursuit for perfection. Gibson always has thrived with it.
“He’s always yelling, but that’s just his way of showing you that you’re on his mind. I realize that,” Gibson said. “When he’s yelling at you then you’re thought of. You don’t want to be the person that he just lets you do whatever and he doesn’t say anything.”