NEW YORK — After undergoing an MRI Wednesday to examine the extent of the left-knee injury he suffered in the second quarter of Tuesday’s loss to the Wizards in Washington, it turns out that Bulls power forward Taj Gibson has a minor sprain of his MCL.
While it’s a re-aggravation of the same injury he suffered in the Bulls’ Feb. 24 loss in Oklahoma City, Gibson was optimistic about his eventual return.
“It’s good news, and I felt like it would be good news depending on how everything went. There was only a little swelling, but it was mostly scar tissue. The only thing about it was it was just painful. It showed that I’ve still got a long way to go as far as my rehabilitation," he said prior to the team’s morning shootaround Thursday at John Jay College in Manhattan. "Just getting the leg strong, because the way it buckled on me, I was just doing a lateral slide, and it just buckled on me. It was real painful, so we just have to see how it’s going to go, keep pushing.
"It was just a lot of scar tissue. Basically everything healed up. The scar tissue kind of got tangled up in there, and that was the most painful part. They told me with my ligament repairing itself that the scar tissue would be gone, but now once that happens and it gets knocked around, it tends to be weak. And when you rush back, that’s one of the things they told me that it’s going to be painful and weak, but I never thought it would buckle on me, doing something so simple.
“It was the MCL, nothing else, that’s the main thing,” Gibson continued. “I don’t really plan on being out for a long time. It depends on how I’m feeling. It’s sore right now and it could be less sore tomorrow. That’s how the knee works.
“I was scared because you have some people saying, ‘You shouldn’t have come back so soon, be careful.’ You have so many aspects of people just in your ear, so many different feelings on what they think you should do, and all I want to do is go out and play. All I want to do is help my team win, be the best player, lead by example, just go out and do all the right things, and I got bit. That’s the one thing, I got bit, just doing something so simple and it shows that I just have to get back to my rehabilitation.”
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Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau elaborated less than his top reserve but generally concurred with Gibson’s self-assessment, as well as ruling him out for Thursday evening’s game against the Nets, the hometown team of the power forward, a Brooklyn native.
“Day-to-day,” the coach said. “It was just a slight sprain.
“The MRI was good,” Thibodeau added. “It’s basically the same, but it’s not as bad as they originally thought.
“We’ll see where he is today. But our doctors looked at him, trainers. We’ll go from there.”
Thibodeau said he was “undecided” about who would take Gibson’s minutes, though it’s conceivable that with All-Star center Joakim Noah still sidelined, the Bulls could field a smaller lineup, with All-Star small forward Luol Deng shifting over to power forward, despite the presence of Malcolm Thomas, who is currently on his second 10-day contract.
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Regarding Noah, Thibodeau said there was an “outside” chance that the All-Star center as well as injured shooting guard Marco Belinelli suit up at the Barclays Center.
There was no change in status for injured guards Rip Hamilton and Derrick Rose.
Gibson understands that he’ll have to endure some pain when he returns to action, just as he had been leading up to the newest injury.
“That’s how I had my mindset on when I first came back. We were sliding down the pole, almost close to that eighth spot the way Boston was playing and stuff like that. I just wanted to come out here and help us get some wins from being in the backseat of the game, the way I’ve been seeing them, so for this to happen to me right now just shows that I came back a little too quick I think," he explained. "But we’re on the right track and we’re just going to keep moving forward. I’ve been playing through pain for a while. Thibs has a theory, if you’re hurt you can play, if you’re injured just sit out. So I just did some judgment and felt like I could be mobile and I could be active, and it just buckled on me. That’s all I can say.’’
With just nine regular-season games remaining heading into Thursday’s tilt with Brooklyn, Gibson has no timetable for when he’ll return to the lineup, though he does plan on seeing some action before the playoffs.
“I really don’t know. It’s really up to see how I’m feeling. It can happen again. I can come out and decide I want to play, but I just have to have my mind ready and my body prepared for the outcome of it because I know we’re making a playoff push, and everybody is needed right now,” he said. “I just want to get my leg stronger. That’s the main thing, get my leg back stronger, because I feel like the way things happened in that Washington game, I still have a long ways to go. I have to put forth more effort to help my team because I can’t be missing games, especially late in a push like this.’’
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After Tuesday’s game, Gibson initially expressed regret about “rushing back” from the injury and while he didn’t completely back off that sentiment, he did elaborate on the situation, as the short-handed Bulls simply need healthy bodies while jockeying for postseason seeding.
“I didn’t even really look at it like that because the way my knee’s been feeling, one day it’s really sore and the next day, I feel great. But the last two nights, it’s been really sore, so just taking the proper precautions, but I want to come back way before the playoffs because I don’t want to go into the playoffs and not know what to expect,” he said. ”You’ve got to keep just moving forward. When it happened I felt good, I really felt great, but in one instance I just got hurt. In the games when I came back, I felt like I was playing against good talent, I didn’t want to sit out and just waste [time]. I wanted to come back and play against the top talent and be ready for the playoffs. And I felt great the first couple of games. I was just on top of it.’’
When asked if he saw any parallels to his status and that of Rose, Gibson supported his injured teammate’s stance on returning to the lineup only when he feels comfortable.
“He’s handled it the right way from Day 1. He listened to himself. That’s the same thing that I did. I listened to myself. I listen to how I know I would react,” he said. “I knew when the training staff told me what I could do and how it feels, it’s your opinion. You’re in charge of your [body], so when I went out there, I felt like I was good, but anything could happen.”