Taj Gibson willing to help recruit LeBron James to Bulls in 2014
BY JOE COWLEY firstname.lastname@example.org March 26, 2013 9:52PM
Bulls forward Taj Gibson yells after scoring six straight points late in the third quarter of the Chicago Bulls 121-115 win over the Sacramento Kings Tuesday February 14, 2012 at the United Center. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times
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Updated: April 28, 2013 6:44AM
It wasn’t the type of conversation Bulls forward Taj Gibson anticipated having when he accepted a spot on the USA Select Team last summer to work out against Team USA as it prepared for the London Olympics.
Then again, it isn’t often LeBron James tries to recruit you to join him with the Miami Heat.
‘‘We talked about it a lot because I was coming up on my contract, possibly becoming a free agent,’’ Gibson said. ‘‘We were kicking it around, and [James] was saying: ‘Come to Miami. Come in, and we’ll treat you right there.’ I was like, ‘Nah, I’m cool with the Bulls.’ ’’
At the time, he really wasn’t.
Gibson entered training camp with an uncertain future. The Bulls had until Nov. 1 to give him a contract extension or allow him to become a restricted free agent after this season. James knew that and was planting the seed.
‘‘Very flattering,’’ Gibson said of James’ offer. ‘‘I mean, that shows that there is a sense of respect about your game. It means that there are other guys around the league watching you, other than just going up and down the court and banging bodies against each other.’’
And NBA executives hate every
aspect of it. Players recruiting other players is common in the NBA these days — and not just because it brought this Heat team together when James made his ‘‘decision’’ after the 2009-10 season. It basically empowers the employees to call the shots, as long as they can make the money work.
‘‘In the past, guys kind of wanted their own team, so they didn’t try and recruit other guys to join them,’’ Bulls backup center Nazr Mohammed, a 15-year veteran, said of the change. ‘‘What’s changed it is AAU and how much basketball guys actually play across the country with other players. They know other guys from other cities, other states, other areas, so they’ve played with them in AAU, the McDonald’s game, Adidas camps, all that stuff. So now they have this friendship, and they come to this level and it’s like, ‘Man, I used to like playing with this guy, and I want to play with him again.’ ’’
Maybe it soon will be time for Gibson to return the favor. Not Wednesday, when the Heat comes to town looking for its 28th consecutive victory, but after the 2013-14 season, when James can opt out of his contract.
Coincidentally, the Bulls will have forward Luol Deng coming off the books and likely will be seeking amnesty on the final season of forward Carlos Boozer’s contract. In other words, there will be cap space for at least one max player, as well as at least one other major piece.
The Bulls were one of the teams on James’ list in 2010, and coach Tom Thibodeau was impressed with his IQ when the two met that offseason.
‘‘I just respect the way he competes,’’ Thibodeau said of James last month.
Gibson said he would have no problem playing recruiter in the process, but it would carry a lot more weight if Bulls star Derrick Rose joins in — a practice he has said he wouldn’t take part in when asked in the past.
‘‘Of course, I would try,’’ Gibson said of talking with James. ‘‘But at the same time, guys have to want to come here. There are a lot of different elements that come with it. Guys want to be able to play in different locations, play in front of certain crowds, play in places with certain weather, so you have to look at all those different aspects.
‘‘But you know what? You never know.’’