After slow start, Gibson plans quick turnaround

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After slow start, Gibson plans quick turnaround

Thus far in the young NBA season, Taj Gibson hasnt been the same Taj Gibson that Bulls fans have come to know and love. The Gibson that earned a long-term contract extension as the season opener was being played has been largely absent this season, but in the mind of his coach, hes beginning to reappear.

He started slowly, but hes picking it up. I think hes gotten a lot more comfortable over the last three or four games. His defense has been very good. And its not about individuals, its about how the team is functioning when hes on the floor, so thats where we have to have our focus, on the team and winning, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said following the teams morning shootaround Wednesday at the Berto Center.

Hes playing a lot with the starters, so he has to play with both groups and he has to play well, and the team has to function well and theres a lot of things that he brings that we need. High energy, great defense. His offense is coming around right now. He was very comfortable in the post at the end of last year. Weve got to get him in there more. Hes got to slow down a little bit, but I like the way hes played the last few games.

As for Gibson, while hes hard on himself, he doesnt attribute his decreased production 6.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game are down from his career numbers, though hes averaging a slight uptick in blocked shots, at 1.5 a night to the pressure of receiving a new contract. However, the fourth-year power forward does acknowledge that hes not playing up to his usual standards.

I just have to do more. I was just getting frustrated. I havent been able to shoot the ball well after putting in a ton of work this summer. Ive just got to work my way out of it. Im trying to just do other things, he said Wednesday. Try to be solid on defense, try to make plays for others, like I did last game. Just try to bring energy to help this team win.

Theres always pressure because youre wearing the Bulls jersey. Our bench is still is adjusting to the different schemes. Its not the same team it was last year, Gibson continued, referring to the Bulls revamped bench, of which he is the lone holdover who played significant minutes last season. I have to do a lot more on defense. I have to talk a lot more and I have to be more vocal, especially on offense. The coaching staff is telling me to keep working. Im putting in more work. Just got to keep working harder.

Report: Pau Gasol tells Bulls he has declined option, becoming a free agent

Report: Pau Gasol tells Bulls he has declined option, becoming a free agent

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, but Pau Gasol is hitting the market.

Gasol told the Bulls that he has declined his option for the 2016-17 season and will become a free agent, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.

The 35-year-old signed a three-year, $22.3 million deal with the Bulls in the summer of 2014.

In two seasons with the Bulls, he averaged 17.6 points per game and 11.4 rebounds and made an All-Star appearance.

Blackhawks' Patrick Kane nominated for ESPY Award as NHL's best player

Blackhawks' Patrick Kane nominated for ESPY Award as NHL's best player

Shortly after he collected a handful of hardware at the NHL Awards last week, including the Hart Trophy for league MVP, Patrick Kane may have another accolade coming his way.

The Blackhawks superstar has been nominated for an ESPY Award as the NHL's best player in 2016 following a season in which he set career highs in goals (46), assists (60) and points (106).

He also set a new American-born record and franchise mark by earning at least a point in 26 straight games, the longest point streak since Mats Sundin (30 games) did it in 1992-93.

Kane looks to make history with Jonathan Toews, who captured the same ESPY Award in 2015, as the first set of teammates to have won in back-to-back years.

The four other nominees are Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, Washington's Braden Holtby and Alex Ovechkin, and San Jose's Joe Pavelski.

The winner will be selected on July 13 at the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles. Click here to cast your vote.

Fire look to keep advancing in Open Cup against Columbus

Fire look to keep advancing in Open Cup against Columbus

Back-to-back road losses in Major League Soccer were a reminder of how far the Chicago Fire has to come to move up the league standings, but Tuesday offers an opportunity for the Fire.

The U.S. Open Cup match against the Columbus Crew (7:30 p.m. kickoff) is a chance for the Fire to get something positive going this season. The round of 16 match is at Toyota Park and a quarterfinal, against either Orlando City or the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, would also be at Toyota Park if the Fire get there.

In order to get to that quarterfinal, the Fire must get by a familiar Crew squad. The two teams played to a scoreless draw in Bridgeview on March 19.

“They are always consistent in their style,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said on Monday. “It’s going to be for us one of our main challenges to stop them and take the possession from them.”

Columbus will have a different look from the team that visited the Fire in March. Prolific striker Kei Kamara has since been traded to New England and replaced by Ola Kamara, no relation. Playmaker Federico Higuain is out after undergoing hernia surgery. Those two made up the core of the Crew’s attack last season.

“They’ve had some adversity,” Fire defender Eric Gehrig said. “The trade with Kei and Higuain is out now with surgery so they’re a limping team, but they’re a team that gets after it. They know their style. They’re dangerous. They still have a lot of weapons. The new Kamara has been banging some goals for them and I think they’re just a team that, whether it’s Open Cup, whether it’s a friendly, whether it’s an MLS game, they really get after it so it’s going to be a good test. Obviously a good rivalry for the two cities and it’s an Open Cup game so there’s a lot on the line.”

The Fire didn’t have David Accam in that March 19 meeting with the Crew. That game was the first in a string of six matches the Ghanaian missed. He scored in Philadelphia on Wednesday and has four goals and two assists in seven matches in MLS play. In addition, he scored the equalizing goal in extra time in the Open Cup opener against Indy Eleven and converted the clinching penalty.

Expect Paunovic to play another near full strength lineup like he did in the first Open Cup match. As for Columbus, coach Gregg Berhalther heavily rotated the squad against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, a 4-0 win in Columbus. Berhalter may go with more regulars against an MLS team on the road.

One player the Fire will be without is midfielder Matt Polster. Paunovic said that Polster, who has been a limited participant in training, will not play Tuesday due to his concussion suffered against Indy Eleven on June 15, but could return for Friday’s match against San Jose.

“Obviously the Open Cup is huge for this club and the legacy we’ve had with it so we’re taking it very seriously and preparing well,” Fire defender Brandon Vincent said.