Taj Gibson told he’ll start; Carlos Boozer exit imminent
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter May 23, 2014 3:16PM
Taj Gibson (left) has been told by the Bulls’ coaching staff to prepare to take over for Carlos Boozer as the starting power forward in 2014-15. | Marc Serota/Getty Images
Updated: June 25, 2014 6:11AM
The worst-kept secret at the Berto Center offices continued to trickle out.
General manager Gar Forman has remained poker-faced about Carlos Boozer’s future as a Bull, but several sources indicated that reserve power forward Taj Gibson was told by the coaching staff to start preparing this offseason to be a starter in 2014-15.
And Gibson has.
With about a week left of rehabbing his left ankle, which he injured in the Game 5 playoff loss to the Wizards last month, Gibson confirmed that he has been told “to get my body and mind right to be a starter.’’
“I mean, this will be exciting,’’ Gibson said in a phone interview. “This is what I’ve always thought about. When I started [six games] for Boozer when he was hurt during the season, I just know how excited I was, how good it felt to come to the arena.’’
The Bulls went 5-1 in those six games, and Gibson averaged 20.6 points and 9.7 rebounds when he was the starting power forward.
Boozer, 32, who had his worst season since joining the Bulls before the 2010-11 season, averaged 13.7 points and 8.3 rebounds — both lows since averaging 10 points and 7.5 rebounds as a rookie in 2002-03 with the Cavaliers.
The 2013-14 season long has been perceived as Boozer’s last with the Bulls.
They simply could invoke the amnesty clause on Boozer, still paying him $16.8 million next season, but not having it count against the cap. Or they could use him as a key trading piece in a splashy deal because of his expiring contract.
Considering the growing asking price in the Kevin Love sweepstakes, the Bulls likely will choose the amnesty option.
Gibson didn’t know how the Boozer situation would be resolved and instead focused on his rehab and his future.
“The ankle is good,’’ Gibson said. “It was just a bad sprain, and they said I could start moving forward [to basketball activity] by next week.
‘‘Still rehabbing, but my focus now is on getting better.’’
Gibson, 28, admittedly is a work in progress.
Offensively, his midrange game improved this season, but he wants to “stretch out my jumper.’’
The Bulls’ coaching staff was concerned about Gibson’s reaction to double teams in the post because his decision-making late in the season was a tad inconsistent.
“I’ve got to adjust when I’m in the post,’’ Gibson said. “Whether it’s making the right pass or the right read, it has to improve. They want me stronger physically, so I’ll be looking to add more muscle, but I also have to be mentally stronger.’’
Gibson no longer has time to work himself into the game like he did coming off the bench. While he was one of the more efficient Bulls in the fourth quarter, coach Tom Thibodeau and his staff need Gibson to understand that starters aren’t afforded that luxury.
He needs to be a presence from tipoff to final horn and must learn how to manage his minutes to maintain that energy to the end. Gibson will need to figure that out during Thibodeau’s preseason camp.
“I feel like I know what I have to do,’’ Gibson said. “I just have to be ready for whatever.’’
And just like that, life without Boozer is seemingly well underway.