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.