Gibson tells his side of the story after rare ejection


Gibson tells his side of the story after rare ejection

In a game featuring the volatile personality of Knicks veteran Rasheed Wallace, who would have guessed that typically mild-mannered Bulls forward Taj Gibson -- though he plays with exuberance, Gibson is one of the most friendly players in the league -- would get his first career ejection in Saturday night's 93-85 home win over the Knicks?

After committing a foul on Knicks sharpshooter Steve Novak with 3:40 remaining in the second quarter, Gibson had some words for one of the game officials that were deemed over the line, resulting in a technical foul. En route to the bench, as teammate Joakim Noah was set to replace him, Gibson briefly turned back to make another comment, prompting a second technical foul and automatic ejection.

"My second one? I didn't curse or anything like that," he said afterwards. "I just said, 'Are you serious?'"

Apparently that was enough to warrant his ejection -- the referee might see it differently -- but regardless, the already short-handed Bulls, who wouldn't have the services of starting point guard Kirk Hinrich after halftime following a left-elbow injury, managed to gut out a gritty win. Still, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau wasn't pleased, as his team has been racking up more technicals than usual this season, with Joakim Noah entering Saturday tied for the league lead with five on the young campaign.

"We Gibson and Thibodeau talked about it briefly. There were some tough calls that I thought went against him and it's an emotional game, but we have to do better with that. When you get one, you've got to let it go and sometimes that's just the way it goes," the coach said. "The calls are not going to go your way all the time and when they don't go your way, you've got to be able to still get through that and get your job done."

For Gibson's part, he was surprised that he received such a quick hook, especially without a reputation as a ref-baiter.

"It was crazy. I don't know. It was just one of those nights when asking questions wasn't a good thing. I tried to ask questions, but I guess the more you kind of talk to the refs, it gets intense. You've got a lot of different guys complaining about calls. I'm never the type to complain about calls or anything like that. I try to just lead by example and let my game speak for itself. I just overreacted, I guess," he told "The official didn't give me any explanation. He just T'd me up. I thought after one, he was going to say, 'All right, one.' But I think he overreacted by giving me two real quick because he didn't even give me a chance to react. He just gave me one, two. But the second one I didn't say anything. I was just going to sit down. But that's the way the game is. The refs control the game. You can't do no right or no wrong.

"They thought I was Rasheed Wallace," Gibson continued, trying to find some humor in the situation. "I never complain, but hey, there's a first time for everything. But the only thing about was coming into the locker room.

"Rip Hamilton was looking at me laughing like, 'You didn't get your money's worth, at least.' But I just took it and went in the back. It's cool."

Despite not having Gibson in the second half against his hometown team, the Bulls were stout defensively and with the East-leading Knicks going to a small lineup, Thibodeau utilized Luol Deng and reserve Jimmy Butler at the forward positions next to Joakim Noah -- limiting starting power forward Carlos Boozer's playing time, even after he had a solid first half of play -- and a backcourt of hot-shooting Marco Belinelli and backup point guard Nate Robinson to pull out the hard-earned victory.

Fire lose Open Cup epic in Cincinnati after penalties


Fire lose Open Cup epic in Cincinnati after penalties


A crowd of 32,287 in Cincinnati waited and waited and waited some more, but finally got what they wanted.

The host FC Cincinnati downed the Chicago Fire in penalty kicks after 120 minutes of goalless soccer.

It was all about the goalkeepers before penalty kicks with the Fire’s Matt Lampson and Cincinnati’s Mitch Hildebrandt combining for 17 saves. Hildebrandt improved on his crazy good night by denying Nemanja Nikolic, Arturo Alvarez and Juninho. Bastian Schweinsteiger was the only Fire player to convert a penalty in four rounds. Cincinnati missed its first penalty, but finished the next three.

In regulation, the Fire huffed and puffed in the first half, but didn’t really create much danger in front of Cincinnati’s goal. At halftime, the Fire had 78 percent of the possession, but couldn’t manage a shot on target.

Cincinnati’s game plan to defend deep and counter was stifling the Fire’s attack. The Fire only managed shots from outside the box that all missed the target. Matt Polster had an open shot in the box following a corner kick, but it was deflected wide by a sliding defender.

The home crowd of 32,287, which is the second biggest crowd in U.S. Open Cup history, didn’t have much to cheer in the first half, but Matt Lampson made the only save of the half when he came off his line to deny Danni Konig who got free down the left side.

Both the atmosphere and the game livened up in the second half. Both teams had multiple quality chances and both keepers, Lampson and Cincinnati’s Mitch Hildebrandt came up with big saves.

Lampson saved the game to deny a breakaway for Jimmy McLaughlin in added time just before regulation ended.

In extra time, Cincinnati thought it had the go-ahead goal from Andrew Wiedeman in the 110th minute, but it was called back for a close offside call. Hildebrandt and Lampson both came up with huge saves in the final minute of extra time to send the match to penalties.

What pushed Theo Epstein over the edge in making Miguel Montero decision: ‘It screamed out’

What pushed Theo Epstein over the edge in making Miguel Montero decision: ‘It screamed out’

WASHINGTON – Cubs president Theo Epstein watched the Washington Nationals run wild on his iPad on Tuesday while visiting the Class-A Myrtle Beach affiliate. As Epstein did some work in his hotel room later that night, he got a text message from general manager Jed Hoyer alerting him to Miguel Montero’s explosive comments.  

Epstein’s management style is to not overreact or worry about the next day’s headlines. He generally believes in second chances, tries to keep an open mind and looks at the problem from every angle, occasionally to the point of paralysis by analysis.

But Epstein said it took “probably 10 seconds” before he realized the Cubs needed to designate Montero for assignment after the veteran catcher pointed the finger at Jake Arrieta – a Cy Young Award-winning, All-Star pitcher – for Washington’s seven stolen bases.    

“It screamed out as something that we should do,” Epstein said.     

As Montero’s rant caught fire on Twitter, Epstein called Hoyer and spoke to Montero on the phone, but he wanted to sleep on it and consult with some players before making Wednesday’s final decision, which could cost approximately $7 million. Epstein could not envision this as a team-building moment after Montero’s mea culpa and clearing the air with Arrieta.

“That was not my read on it, knowing the dynamics, present and past,” Epstein said. “This was not something that we would benefit from – trying to pursue a path of putting it all back together again.”

The Cubs pursued Aroldis Chapman after the New York Yankees closer began last season serving a 30-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic-violence policy. The Cubs cautiously didn’t judge or unconditionally support Addison Russell after a third-party abuse accusation on social media triggered an MLB investigation this month. The Cubs tolerated Tommy La Stella’s refusal to report to Triple-A Iowa last summer, allowing him to chill out at home in New Jersey.

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But Montero doesn’t have a 100-mph fastball. Montero isn’t an All-Star shortstop. Montero isn’t being preserved for one hypothetical pinch-hit at-bat in the playoffs. The Cubs are hovering around .500 now – no longer the World Series favorite – and all those variables become part of the calculus.   

“I just came to the conclusion that now more than ever we really need to be a team,” Epstein said. “This was an example of someone being a bad teammate publicly, and that we’d be better off moving on and not standing for it, because we do hold our players to a higher standard than that.

“In our role as the front office, we can’t always be in the clubhouse and push the right buttons to help everyone come together as a team. But we certainly are in a position – when we see something that could fracture the group – to try to fix the situation and remove that issue.

“Miggy’s not to blame at all for the issues that we have as a team right now. He should not be a scapegoat for what’s going on. This was just an example of someone publicly not being a good teammate and making comments that weren’t accountable and weren’t supportive and weren’t in furtherance of the team concept. And we felt we had to act on it.”

There is a chicken-or-the-egg mystery to clubhouse cohesion. But Montero probably would have had a longer fuse – and the bosses would have had a longer leash – if the Cubs were 24 games above .500 the way they were at this time last year. Montero could also get away with a lot more when he was a two-time All-Star for the Arizona Diamondbacks and playing in a sleepy market. 

“Had we been in a spot where this group had already formed its identity and was clicking on all cylinders,” Epstein said, “and had already overcome adversity together and come together completely as a team and we’re rolling in those respects, maybe it could have been handled differently by the group without sort of action from above.

“But I think you have to factor in where the team is and what the team needs and how close we are to reaching our ideal and how close we are to living up to all the values that we have as an organization.”

The Cubs Way isn’t exactly making it up as they go along. But there are always double standards and rationalizations in a bottom-line business. It sounds like Epstein did his due diligence without giving it a second thought: Montero wasn’t worth the trouble anymore. 

“There aren’t that many opportunities for people out of uniform to positively impact the group or nudge it in the right direction,” Epstein said, “or underscore the importance of team or emphasize the values that we try to embody as a group.

“This was one that made sense, given the history, the group dynamics, all the factors involved.”