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.

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Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

If there's a more maddening player in the Eastern Conference than Nikola Mirotic, that player's psychologist should be getting paid double considering Bulls fans have been talking to themselves about Mirotic so much over the past three years.

And as they've reached no conclusion on Mirotic, along with many other sage minds, only one thing is for certain: March is his month.

Meaning it's the month where it becomes maddening to watch him play and probably equally as maddening for his teammates who've watched his inconsistencies for the better part of four months or so.

Averaging 16.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in 41 career March games, it's the only full month where Mirotic averages in double figures for his career—meaning there's a lot of inconsistencies to wade through to get to the proverbial pot of gold.

In 2014-15, he emerged as the NBA's best fourth-quarter scorer that month when the Bulls were without both Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Last season, he came back fresh after an appendectomy took a big chunk of his year.

This year, there's no big macro reason. He's just playing definitively, making quick movements and it's paying off as his two best scoring games took place within a four-day span (28 against both Detroit and Milwaukee).

"Right now, you see I'm shooting without hesitation," Mirotic said to CSNChicago.com. "Just catch and shooting. It's a great feeling."

No word on whether Mirotic hears the fans in the arena or the twitterverse screaming for him to ditch the pump fake that he actually admits it got in his head, but this season has been a roller coaster of the most dramatic kind, as the Bulls are still vying for playoff positioning with eight games remaining in the regular season.

"Sometimes, especially when I'm reading you guys (media), Niko pump fake, pump fake," Mirotic said with a smile. "Okay, no more pump fakes, just fire that ball. I'm laughing because you guys are (right)…that's true. You guys want me to shoot. It doesn't look good when you pump fake every time you have a wide-open shot."

Being penciled in as a training camp starter due to the need for floor spacing, Taj Gibson quickly outplayed Mirotic for the power forward spot. Then Mirotic's up and down, down and up, season began.

Kind of like his pump fake that often drew more defensive attention for it's predictability than effectiveness, stability has been hard to find for a player many have been waiting on since the day he was drafted in 2011.

"I know the defenses are ready for my pump fake so now just like, shoot the ball," Mirotic said. "I've been spending a lot of hours working on my shot before practice, after practice, trying to catch the feeling."

Better late than never or too late?

That's the question surrounding Mirotic and he knows it, being aware of his status as a restricted free-agent-to-be, along with his trade value a month ago being so low, the Bulls could only get a future second-round pick for him from teams.

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With the Bulls having so many questions going into the future, who knows if they want to go through the up-and-down, down-and-up cycle with a talented player yet again, with a big-time financial commitment.

In a sense, Mirotic knows he's left plenty on the table as far as his play through the years and seems to be content with playing with a sense of freedom as the season concludes, whether he's back with the Bulls or not for next year and beyond.

"I just wanna leave a good impression for the Bulls," Mirotic said. "Whatever decision they make. It's been a pleasure. A lot of people dream to be here, I was one of those guys when I was in Europe. I was really like, I wanna go there and play for the Bulls. The history they have. For me, it's a dream come true. Whatever decision they make, I make, whatever. I don't know. The years here have been great. I know it's been up and down. It's been a pleasure and I just wanna finish right."