Chicago Bears

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.

Bears: Where does Kyle Fuller fit with Prince Amukamara back?

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Bears: Where does Kyle Fuller fit with Prince Amukamara back?

Prince Amukamara (ankle) is expected to make his 2017 regular season debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers after being a full participant in practices Thursday and Friday (he wasn't listed on Friday's injury report). But that leads to the question: What does defensive coordinator Vic Fangio do with Kyle Fuller?

Fuller acquitted himself well in starts against the Atlanta Falcons — in which he helped limit Julio Jones to four catches on five targets — and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bears signed Amukamara to start opposite Marcus Cooper, but Fuller has at least earned the opportunity to keep his job — or a job — on Sunday. 

And it's worth noting that both Fuller and Amukamara are in contract years, so both should be motivated to not lose playing time going forward. 

“I was pleased with the waay Kyle played overall,” Fangio said. “There's obviously some plays he'd like to do over and play them a little better, but overall I thought he did a good job. I like where he's at right now.”

Fangio didn’t play Fuller as a nickel corner in 2015. But if the Bears want to get their best defensive players on the field could Fuller force his way into a nickel role with Amukamara and Cooper as the outside guys? 

That’s an especially pertinent question given Pittsburgh’s explosive trio of receivers: Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and JuJu Smith-Schuster. 

“No matter where a receiver lines up, it’s not going to be a down to take off,” Amukamara said. “We’re always going to have to have our ‘A’ game.”

Avisail Garcia's 'big head' isn't getting in the way of defensive improvements

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USA TODAY

Avisail Garcia's 'big head' isn't getting in the way of defensive improvements

Avisail Garcia's "big head" almost cost the White Sox on Friday night. At least, that's Reynaldo Lopez's humorous theory. 

With the game on the line and the Royals' tying run dashing for the plate, Garcia slipped a bit before making a clutch recovery to nail Whit Merrifield. The craziness continued after the tag as Narvaez caught Lorenzo Cain drifting off first base to seal a win. 

"I was watching the game on the TV here," Lopez said, "and then when I saw the hit from Cain, and I saw that Avi fell down because he has a big head, I was concerned but at the same time I saw that his throw, he has a good arm and he made a very good throw." 

Just your average 9-2-4-6 double play to end a game on the South Side, right? 

"Obviously, when he slipped we took a little gasp," Renteria said. "But we were talking about his body control to be able to maintain himself enough to get up and make the throw that he did. Unbelievable. It's pretty exciting finish to a ballgame that kind of got a little ugly early on."

Ugly is an apt way to describe the first few innings. Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada both made errors in the Royals' six-run third inning, and Lopez capped it off with a wild pitch that allowed Eric Hosmer to score. But it went from an eyesore loss to an overzealous "we could make noise in 2019" rebuild win from there, and Garcia's defense -- of all things -- played a significant role. 

Garcia's outfield assist in the ninth was his second of the game. The first, an absolute strike to cut down Alex Gordon in the sixth, didn't involve a slip, though. 

And while much has been made of Garcia's breakout year with the bat, he believes his defense is hugely improved, too. 

"I think 100 percent," he said. "I just try to get better every day with hitting and defense. That’s baseball so get better in everything."

He has 12 outfield assists on the season, up from five a year ago. And despite his overall fielding percentage being down, his strong arm may give him a stronger defensive reputation. 

"Since last year, he's always had an excellent arm," Renteria said. "I think his accuracy is something to be pointed out too because as off balance as he was, he's made some throws to the plate that have been really spot on."

Renteria attributes Garcia's accuracy to the outfielder putting in extra time with Daryl Boston. 

"(Boston) has those guys throwing, and none of you guys are out there watching them work, but they'll throw quite a bit to the bases, especially second base," Renteria said. "They'll get deep and they'll work on doing that, so that's just a part of their routine."

The evolution of Avi carries on.