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Bigger Bulls’ role likely for hard-working Taj Gibson

Chicago Bulls v IndianPacers

Chicago Bulls v Indiana Pacers

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Updated: November 23, 2013 6:35AM

There’s a reason Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has been going out of his way to praise Taj Gibson throughout training camp.

Gibson, who will play a huge role off the bench, has shown enough versatility that he could be a starter next season.

With Luol Deng and his camp prepared to explore free agency and Carlos Boozer’s future always a question mark, Gibson’s ability to play the four or five could come in handy, especially if the front office finally gets Nikola Mirotic to leave the Spanish League and join the frontcourt.

There’s a strong feeling from the organization that Mirotic is ready to make the leap, and Gibson’s continued improvement is the ultimate insurance either way.

‘‘I always say that if you’re practicing well, you’re going to play well,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘And as I mentioned before, the guy that has practiced great from the beginning is Taj. It’s reflected in the way he’s played. He’s concentrating. He’s performing at a high level. He’s put a lot of work into it. His concentration during practice has been great. You have to get your entire team doing that.’’

Quick hands crew

Marquis Teague (12 points) continued to impress Monday against the Milwaukee Bucks, playing well for a third consecutive game. That’s why Thibodeau has been teaming the second-year guard with Derrick Rose.

Call it building trust. The result has been a backcourt with quick hands and even quicker feet.

‘‘There’s a lot of speed and quickness, and it gives you a second ball-handler, so you can run multiple pick-and-rolls, and defensively, when they’re locked in, they can be very good,’’ Thibodeau said.

Thibodeau hasn’t committed to Teague being a rotation player yet, but Teague has at least put himself in position to where they have to have the discussion.

Still a vacancy

The 13th and final roster spot is up in the air, Thibodeau said. Mike James and Dexter Pittman are the frontrunners, with D.J. White in the picture.

A decision would have been made already except that injuries to Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler have complicated the process.

‘‘There’s still time, and we have to evaluate who’s in and who’s out and what the greatest need will be,’’ Thibodeau said.


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