With deadline looming, Gibson still without contract extension

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With deadline looming, Gibson still without contract extension

Time is running out on the Bulls to come to an agreement with Taj Gibson on a contract extension, but the Bulls young power forward is taking the circumstances in stride as he readies himself for another season that begins tomorrow.

Gibson and the Bulls have until 11 p.m. CST tomorrow night to come to an agreement on an extension, or the 6-foot-9 forward will become a restricted free agent at the end of this season. The Bulls could still match any contract offer Gibson receives from another team in free agency, so his future in Chicago is not necessarily hinging on a deal getting done in the next 33 or so hours.

My agent and (Bulls general manager) Gar (Forman) are still working on it. Ill have to wait and see, Gibson said. Hopefully well get something done so I can just focus on basketball. Right now Im just focused on basketball.

Gibson said being in the middle of contract negotiations nearing a deadline is not fun at times, and he has coped with it by turning off his cell phone and, with the help of his teammates and coaches, focused on basketball and the arrival of the season.

But his agent, Mark Bartelstein, still has a job to do, and that means arriving with coffee and McDonalds breakfast as early as 6 a.m. to go over the latest updates on the negotiations.

Every morning its something new, Gibson said. But its a blessing to be in this position. Not many people can say they have a chance to get an extension from a great team like the Chicago Bulls. So Im just taking it in stride.

Gibson is one of a handful of players from the 2009 NBA Draft class looking for extensions as the deadline nears. Ty Lawson, the No. 18 pick, just secured a four-year, 48 million extension this afternoon. Notables such as Brandon Jennings, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Eric Maynor and Tyreke Evans, who Gibson will face tomorrow night, are still awaiting possible extensions before tomorrow's deadline.

The Bulls already have approximately 63 million in salaries committed for the 2013 season, but the talk all offseason has been that re-signing Gibson long-term remains a priority for Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson.

Most people are more focused on it than me. I dont even think about it, to tell you the truth, he said. I turn my cell phone off, go home and focus on the games ahead. Its gonna be a big year, and were just focusing on the Sacramento Kings.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said he hasnt been worried that the extension talks would be a distraction to his power forward, in part because players deal with commotion on a daily basis.

"Thats the thing about the NBA. Hes a terrific player but if you look, it could be a distraction every day, Thibodeau said. Theres an excuse, or you can stay focused and get the job done and hopefully thats what our team will do this year.

Whether Gibson inks a deal before the deadline, more will be expected from the fourth-year reserve. With a re-tooled bench and the loss of Derrick Rose for at least the first half of the season, Gibson knows its up to him to take on more of a leadership role as part of a collective effort to help the team succeed without their superstar.

For him, that begins with consistency. While sporadic minutes off the bench meant mixed results a year ago, Chicagos sixth man is beginning to carve out a role in the frontcourt, spelling starter Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.

It seems like whenever I need to step up I just pick it up a notch. I need to come in with the right mindset, and I need to bring effort every night, Gibson said. Thats one thing, Ive been a guy that watches the game, figures out where I need to pick it up on defense, or what I need to help in on offense, and just figure out plays like that. I just need to be much of a bigger role of a leader off the bench, to come in and be ready to play.

While time is ticking and uncertainty remains, Gibson reiterated his hope to remain in a Bulls uniform as long as possible. That decision may come in the next 24 hours, or it may not come until next summer. For now, Gibson has shifted that responsibility to his agent while he is focused on winning games.

Ive stressed it many times that I want to be here, but theres only so much I can really do besides take care of things on the basketball court, he said. I have to let my agent and Gar Forman handle the rest of the business.

Hes been great, and Gars been great, and were just trying to get this thing done.

Wade Davis' impact on Cubs goes far beyond his eye-popping numbers

Wade Davis' impact on Cubs goes far beyond his eye-popping numbers

Wade Davis may not light up the radar gun like Aroldis Chapman, but the veteran closer has still had a similar impact shortening games for the Cubs.

Davis is 10-for-10 in save opportunities in his first year in Chicago, providing Joe Maddon and the Cubs with peace of mind as an anchor in a bullpen that has thrown the eighth-most innings in baseball (and ranks No. 8 in ERA with a 3.45 mark).

Davis just surrendered his first runs of the season Wednesday night on a Mac Williamson homer that snuck into the right-field basket.

Yet Davis still wound up preserving the victory by buckling down and turning away the Giants in the ninth. It was the first homer he's allowed since Sept. 24, 2015 and only the fourth longball he's given up since the start of the 2014 campaign, a span of 201 innings.

Even with Wednesday's outing, Davis boasts a microscopic 0.98 ERA and has allowed just 14 baserunners in 18.1 innings.

With 24 whiffs on the season, Davis is striking out 34.8 percent of the batters he's faced in a Cubs uniform, which would be the second-highest mark of his career (he struck out 39.1 percent of batters in 2014 as the Kansas City Royals setup man).

The 31-year-old nine-year MLB veteran is showing no ill effects from the forearm issue that limited him to only 43.1 innings last season.

[RELATED: How Wade Davis transformed into an elite pitcher by simply not caring]

But his impact isn't restricted to just on-the-field dominance. In spring training, Justin Grimm said he spent as much time as he could around Davis in an attempt to soak up all the knowledge he could.

"It's the stuff that you see — obviously he's really good," Maddon said. "He knows how to pitch, he's a very good closer, he's very successful. But he's a really good mentor to the other guys.

"Oftentimes, I'll walk through the video room and he'll be sitting there with a young relief pitcher or a catcher. There's a lot of respect. A lot of guys come to me and say, 'Listen, Wade's really great to be around.'"

Maddon was the manager with the Tampa Bay Rays when Davis first made his big-league debut in 2009 and the now-Cubs skipper credits the Rays organization with teaching Davis the right habits.

Davis also began his career as a starter before moving to the bullpen full-time in 2014 and reinventing himself as one of the best pitchers on the planet.

"He's grown into this," Maddon said. "He was raised properly. He comes from the organization with the Rays — really good pitching, really good pitching health regarding coaching. And then some of the veteran players that were around him to begin with.

"He's passing it along. The obvious is that he's got a great cutter, slider, fastball, curveball, whatever. He's very good with everybody else around him."

Davis needed 34 pitches to work around a couple jams and get the save Wednesday night. That's his highest pitch count in an outing since June 2, 2015.

Wednesday was also Davis' first time working in a week as the Cubs have not had a save situation in that span.

Maddon said he sees no link between the week off and Davis' struggles in Wednesday's outing and the Cubs manager also has no hesitance going to his closer for more than three outs.

However, Maddon doesn't see a need to extend Davis at this point in the season and would prefer to keep the Cubs' best reliever fresh for the stretch run and what the organization hopes is another shot at a World Series title.

Bears' makeover continues with salsa dancing ex-Giants WR Victor Cruz

Bears' makeover continues with salsa dancing ex-Giants WR Victor Cruz

The 2017 veteran makeover of the Bears’ wide-receiver position group continued on Thursday with the signing of former New York Giants wideout Victor Cruz to a one-year deal, a fourth move this offseason fitting an intriguing pattern in Bears roster construction.

Cruz “announced” the move on his Instagram account, declaring, “The Giants will forever be family,” Cruz wrote. “But for now, Bear down!!!” He becomes the fourth free-agent wide receiver signed by Bears and coming in with no fewer than four seasons of NFL experience.

The Bears have been about the business of shoring up their receiver group virtually since the 2016 season ended, adding depth in addition to filling in the vacancies created by Alshon Jeffery leaving for the Philadelphia Eagles via free agency, and the subsequent release of veteran Eddie Royal.

In their places, the Bears have added Cruz, Rueben Randle (Jan. 10), Markus Wheaton (Mar. 10) and Kendall Wright (Mar. 11), in addition to having Joshua Bellamy, Daniel Braverman, Cameron Meredith, Deonte Thompson and Kevin White in place.

Cruz, whose trademark Salsa dance to celebrate touchdowns has been an NFL staple over his six seasons with the Giants, for whom he started 53 of 70 career games after signing with the Giants as an undrafted free agent out of Massachusetts in 2010. Cruz has caught 303 career passes for 4,549 yards and 25 touchdowns, earning a Super Bowl ring with the Giants and earning selection to the 2012 Pro Bowl.

Cruz has not played a full 16-game season since 2012, when he caught a career-best 86 passes for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns. He missed all of 2015 after rehabbing from a torn patellar tendon in the 2014 season and then suffering a calf injury that eventually required surgery. The Giants released Cruz in early February this year.