MIAMI — Aside from Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson has arguably had the Bulls’ most impressive preseason.
That’s over and done now, but the Bulls’ regular-season opener against the Heat bodes well for the backup big man from a matchup standpoint, as his length, athleticism and versatility enables him to defend a number of Miami’s key players—from All-Star big man Chris Bosh to the superstar wing duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade when switching in pick-and-roll scenarios—and his improved offensive game could pose problems for the smallish frontcourt he’ll face.
“I feel good. I put a lot of work in. Just got to keep working. Tonight’s the first step, but it’s a long season. Just got to keep pushing and I feel like it may come down to that. I’ve had to step up my role a whole bunch, but I’ve prepared for it,” Gibson explained. “I’m looking to be my same old self, bring energy and intense defense, and maybe bring a little better scoring now.”
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau lauded Gibson’s improvement and concurred that he could have a big role against the Heat.
“They have great versatility. They can go small. They have bigs with a lot of quickness. What Taj does is give us an option to stay big when teams go small. That’s unique. I like having that. I think what it leads to is defense and rebounding,” the coach said. “Taj can guard everyone. As I’ve said, he’s had a great preseason. He’s been our best practice player. He has to continue to put the work in. When he practices well, he always plays well.”
Gibson isn’t taking anything for granted against the defending champions.
“They’ve just got experience. They know us well, just like we know them well. But they’ve just added a couple new players to their system,” he said. “It’s all about just figuring out where to get your spots and how to play defense on certain kinds of guys.”
Given that’s Gibson specialty, it appears his head is in the right place.