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.