Bulls’ Taj Gibson signs four-year extension
BY JOE COWLEY firstname.lastname@example.org October 31, 2012 10:04PM
Bulls forward Taj Gibson lifts a shot in the second quarter of the Chicago Bulls-Sacramento Kings NBA game Wednesday October 31, 2012 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: December 2, 2012 2:20PM
Call it Taj Gibson’s best rebound of the night.
After walking away from what appeared to be the final offer from the Bulls for a contract extension with the Wednesday-night deadline approaching, Gibson had a change of heart. Minutes after a 93-87 victory over the Sacramento Kings, he inked a four-year deal believed to be in the neighborhood of $32 million.
Before the game, Gibson and his agent, Mark Bartelstein, not only seemed to have a line drawn in the sand, but seemed to have their minds made up on taking their chances in the 6-9 forward becoming a restricted free agent this summer.
“I highly doubt it,’’ Gibson replied, when asked in the pregame if there was going to be a change of heart. “That’s the way I see it. Just got to put it behind me, move forward, try to win games.’’
But coming into the locker room after the victory, general manager Gar Foreman and VP of basketball operations John Paxson were waiting to talk to Gibson again.
While the money didn’t change, according to Gibson, some of the language in the deal did.
“I just thought about it, but basically it was Paxson and Gar just stressing to me that I really want to be here for a long time,’’ Gibson explained.
“It kind of dawned on me that I don’t want to be a selfish player, I just want to get what’s fair. I looked at the numbers, and that’s a lot of money. I couldn’t turn down that much money, especially for the security, you never know what can happen throughout the year.
“My agent was great. He talked to me like he was my father and I asked him, ‘What do you think we should do?’ It’s hard. In this position people can say, ‘You’re crazy,’ ‘You shouldn’t have taken that money,’ but being in this position it’s hard to turn down that much money knowing you have to go through a whole season without injuries, knowing what you have to do, and having that chip on your shoulder night in and night out, because you never know what can happen.’’
The high-fives and celebration from his teammates were almost instantaneous. Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson yelled, “Taji-woo-woo,’’ as Gibson was breaking the news to the media. But even they know his value off the bench.
Drafted out of USC in 2009, Gibson has progressively gotten better, becoming a key member of the “Bench Mob’’ the last few years. His role is expected to expand further, also getting work at center, besides his usual minutes at power forward.
“He’s amazing,’’ Boozer said of Gibson. “He can guard one through five, score from outside, great shot-blocker, just crazy how fast he’s getting better.’’
Although Gibson said before the game that not having a deal done wouldn’t change the way he played, he did look less energetic as usual in the victory against the Kings with just four points and five boards.
“I’m relieved,’’ Gibson admitted afterward. “I feel much better that we got a win [Wednesday night]. But just having Gar and Pax come in here and say, ‘We want you for a long time.’ I said, ‘I want to be here for a long time, I want to retire here.’ So it was great.’’