As he heads into his eighth season in a Bulls uniforms, Taj Gibson has pretty much seen it all.
And what he’s seeing now is a team that’s shifting to a more uptempo style, with some new teammates who know uptempo. Especially Dwyane Wade, who’s already making it easier for the players around him to create on offense.
“Absolutely. He really knows how to communicate to guys,’’ Gibson said after practice on Monday, “and when he talks, people really listen.’’
As a three-time NBA champion and 12-time All-Star, Wade brings knowledge and a reassuring presence that leads to offensive flow.
“`He’s one of those guys,’’ Gibson said. “He’s a great teacher. He knows how to get guys the right shots, telling guys when to take those shots, get those looks. Even with Niko [Mirotic], when the shots weren’t falling, he told him, `Don’t worry about it, I’ve missed millions of shots. Take your shots.’ Those kind of players, you need around you when you’re in a slump or you want to win games.’’
There are unanswered questions for Gibson—about his role, his position, his minutes, moving on without cherished teammates.
But as the longest-tenured Bull, these are not a big deal for Gibson. With all the changes around him, this is a fresh start, and that’s OK, too.
“I can adjust to any kind of situation,’’ he said. “I’ve been a starter, I’ve been off the bench. So any curveball you can throw at me is not going to surprise me. I’m always ready. I’m just a team player.’’
Although Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah are now in New York with the Knicks, Gibson said he’s still in touch.
“Of course. Those guys, that’s family for life,’’ Gibson said. “We’ve been through so many battles, nothing will ever change that. But right now I’ve got to focus on this team.’’
Gibson did some working out in California this summer with Jimmy Butler, who’s now second on the Bulls’ seniority list.
“[When] I was in L.A., I didn’t do the beach workouts,’’ Gibson said. “I was too tired, to be honest. We did a lot of shooting, a lot of early morning, 6 a.m. stuff. We put the sacrifice in. It’s all about trying to put it on the court now.’’
Second-year coach Fred Hoiberg is using this week’s light exhibition schedule to practice hard. The team went at it for 2-1/2 hours on Monday.
That was fine with Gibson, who feels he’s made strides after putting in some solid work on his game in the off-season.
“Just staying in my lane, doing what Coach tells me to do,’’ the 6-9 forward said. “Come in, give 110 percent in practice. It shows on the floor. I worked hard all summer with Jimmy. three-a-days. Never took any time off, just focused on myself what’s coming this season. D-Wade and [Rajon] Rondo and Jimmy. They’ve been great as far as finding me. Just working hard.’’
And as a senior Bull, Gibson takes responsiblity for setting a good example along with his other roles.
“Young guys are just flying around,’’ he said. “They’re going to make mistakes. As vets, we have to make sure everything goes smooth. But everybody’s still learning. We’ve got new faces. It’s fun because everybody is competing.’’
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