Gibson proud to rep Bulls in All-Star festivities

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Gibson proud to rep Bulls in All-Star festivities

Friday, Feb. 18, 2011Posted: 7:20 PM Updated: 10:30 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Going to Los Angeles for All-Star weekend has a special significance for Bulls big man Taj Gibson. Gibson, who participated in Friday nights T-Mobile Rookie Challenge and will take part in Saturdays Haier Shooting Stars competition, attended the University of Southern California for three years and also finished high school in California, at Stoneridge Prep.

Thats my second home. Ive been out there half of my life, Gibson told CSNChicago.com after Thursday nights Bulls win over the league-leading San Antonio Spurs. Its a wonderful feeling to go back and see old friends and family.

Im just looking forward to getting out there and getting some good food, continued the Brooklyn, N.Y., native, who contributed six points, six rebounds and two blocked shots off the bench in Thursday nights victory. Some Roscoes Chicken and Waffles a landmark L.A. restaurant. Theres nothing like that.

Home cooking aside, Gibson is pleased to be in the rookie-sophomore game for the second straight season, albeit under different circumstances. A starter for 70 regular-season games and Chicagos first-round playoff series last season as a member of the NBAs all-rookie first team, Gibson also began this season as the Bulls starting power forward, but it was knowingly temporary with offseason free-agent acquisition out at the beginning of the season. Gibsons numbers initially dipped when he first adjusted to his reserve role and hes been hit with the injury bug, but he seems to have found his groove coming off the bench as of late and is grateful coaches around the league appreciate his blue-collar game, regardless of his decreased playing time.

It means a lot, just trying to prove myself in this league by playing hard and trying to get better and improve, Gibson told CSNChicago.com. Even with the lack of minutes Ive been playing this year, the coaches still saw how hard I played, how good I can be and Im honored.

Gibson was reunited with former USC teammate DeMar DeRozan in the game, but the former Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year also took notice of two of his opponents from Thursdays game who will also participate in the event, which he expects to be interesting to see.

Ive seen Spurs rookie sharpshooter Gary Neal light it up Thursday night, when he scored 16 points off the bench against the Bulls and of course, Spurs second-year starting power forward DeJuan Blair, you know what hes done all year, Gibson said.

The second-year forward finished the rookie-sophomore game with eight points, two rebounds, a block and a steal in 18 minutes.

As for the Shooting Stars event, while Gibson is a confident mid-range shooter, hes not exactly the second coming of former Bulls marksman Steve Kerr. Yet, Saturday evening, hell team up with the ex-Bulls guard and Chicago Sky sharpshooter Catherine Kraayveld to represent the Windy City.

I see it all the time, but I never thought Id play in it and Im honored that theyd even ask me to be a part of that, especially with Steve Kerr and representing Chicago, so Im looking forward to it, said Gibson, whose November halfcourt buzzer-beater at Dallas was his first three-pointermade or attemptedat either the professional or college level. Im going to try to display his range. Im going to go for the halfcourt shot. Im going to go for mostly everything I can.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Fred Hoiberg wants a more aggressive Bulls defense

Fred Hoiberg wants a more aggressive Bulls defense

Being a better defensive team was a prime objective for Fred Hoiberg coming into camp, as the Bulls hope to reclaim some of their defensive identity that disappeared last season.

Reciting a not-so-true stat routinely to reporters in the first few days, that the Bulls were last in forcing turnovers in 2015-16, means he’s likely barking it to the team in practices (they were actually second-to-last behind the New York Knicks).

“Absolutely,” said Hoiberg when asked if being more aggressive defensively is a goal. “We are turning the ball over way too much. After watching film, our defense is responsible for some of that. We have a guy in (Rajon) Rondo that's a high steals guy, got great hands, great instincts, great wingspan. Jimmy (Butler) is always had great anticipation and one of the top steals guy.”

Butler is one of the best two-way players, along with San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Indiana’s Paul George, but even he admitted his defense slipped last year as the Bulls fell to a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of advanced defensive rankings (15th).

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Rondo was once one of the league’s best defensive point guards before tearing up his knee his last full season in Boston, and averaged two steals last year in Sacramento, but gave up a career-high 107 points per 100 possessions, according to basketball-reference.com.

Whether Rondo was a function of a bad defense overall for the Kings or a player who no longer fully commits himself to that end remains to be seen, but it’s clear Hoiberg wants a more hands-y defense. Too many times last year, the Bulls defense had leaks from the top down, resulting in compromised drives to the basket and breakdowns all around.

More than anything, the Bulls defense was one of indifference, especially after the first 30 games or so.

“Like all staffs we watched a ton of film and tried to figure out with this group how to create more turnovers, how to impact the ball better,” Hoiberg said. “Every day it's been a big emphasis in our defense and we get out and force turnovers and make sure the help is there behind the trap and being aggressive on the ball.”

Denzel Valentine a candidate for minutes at the point for Bulls

Denzel Valentine a candidate for minutes at the point for Bulls

The common refrain among coaches in the first days of training camp is “this guy had an incredible summer”, a phrase Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has said so much that even he had to laugh when asked who didn’t have a banner summer period.

Of course, that’s before fans and media get to see anyone play, so we can only speculate who’ll win certain position battles, like the starting power forward spot or how deep Hoiberg’s rotation will go.

So in the spirit of speculation, Bulls rookie Denzel Valentine’s versatility makes him a candidate for the backup point guard position, a spot that is filled with different options for Hoiberg to choose from.

“He’s such an instinctive player. He does a great job,” Hoiberg said. “We talk about making simple plays. You’ve done your job when you beat your man, draw the second defender and make the easy, simple play. Denzel is great at that. That’s not a gift that everybody has. That’s not an instinct that all players have. But Denzel certainly has it.”

One wonders if Valentine could find himself on the outside looking in at the start of the season, like Bobby Portis did last year before all the injuries hit the Bulls and forced him into action.

It’s a different vision than when Valentine was drafted as a late lottery pick after a seasoned career at Michigan State. The Bulls hadn’t signed Dwyane Wade or Rajon Rondo in free agency, and had traded Derrick Rose 24 hours before the draft, so the thought was Valentine could be an instant contributor.

Even still, Valentine can likely play anything from point guard to small forward, but hasn’t gotten extensive reps at the point, yet.

“I’ve played on the wing so far. A little bit of point,” Valentine said. “I got a couple reps on the point, but like 70-30. Seventy on the wing, 30 on the point.”

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He got an early jump on the Hoiberg terminology at summer league, so the language isn’t a big adjustment, but having to learn multiple positions along with the tendencies of new teammates can mean a steeper learning curve.

“Yeah, I just got to continue learning sets and learning guys’ strengths so that I can use that to their best advantage,” Valentine said. “Play-make as best I can when I’m at the point guard spot. Just learning the system, learning guys’ strengths, and then I’ll be better at it.”

The presence of Wade and Jimmy Butler, one of whom will likely anchor the second unit as Hoiberg will probably stagger minutes so each can have the requisite time and space, means even if Valentine were on the floor, he wouldn’t have to be a natural point guard.

Hoiberg does, however, crave having multiple playmakers who can initiate offense or create shots off penetration or pick and roll action, meaning Valentine can work it to his advantage.

“I think he can. Jimmy played with the ball in his hands a lot last year,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy rebounds the ball and if Dwyane rebounds the ball, they’re bringing it. Rajon if he’s out there knows to fill one of the lanes. Denzel is an excellent passer. He’s got such good basketball instincts. So if you can get guys out there who can make plays, that’s what it’s all about. I think you’re very difficult to guard in this league when you have multiple ballmakers.”

Other notes:

Dwyane Wade won’t be taking walk-up triples for the Bulls, despite his call that Hoiberg wants him being more comfortable from behind the long line. Hoiberg does want him being willing and able to take corner threes, likely off guard penetration from Rondo or Jimmy Butler.

When Wade played with LeBron James in Miami, cutting from the corners became a staple, so putting him there could be an old wrinkle Hoiberg is adding to his scheme.

Wade took seven of his 44 3-pointers from the corner last season, hitting two from the right side, according to vorped.com.

“When he’s open, especially in the corners, that’s a shot we want him taking. It’s a thing we worked on yesterday, making sure he stays on balance,” Hoiberg said. “He’s got a natural lean on his shot, which has been very effective, being on the elite mid range shooters in our game. That’s allowed him to get shots over bigger defenders. When you get out further from the basket, especially by the line, you need to get momentum going in, work on your body position and work on finishing that shot. He’s got good mechanics, it’s a matter of finishing the shot.”