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Thibodeau backs Taj Gibson for Sixth Man Award

Los Angeles Lakers v Chicago Bulls

Los Angeles Lakers v Chicago Bulls

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Updated: January 20, 2014 11:25PM

Lakers swingman Nick Young, who was averaging 16.7 points off the bench, is a leading contender for the Sixth Man Award and didn’t hurt his credentials with 17 points in the first half Monday against the Bulls. But reserve big man Taj Gibson, Young’s former teammate at USC, deserves consideration, coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Gibson was averaging 11.7 points and 6.5 rebounds — numbers that only begin to explain his value to the Bulls.

‘‘Taj, to me, is a starter,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He’s had a fantastic year. He can score, he defends, can play multiple positions. Whatever you ask him to do, he does.’’

Gibson’s versatility is immeasurable to Thibodeau because he’s just as effective as a starter or as a substitute.

‘‘Not many guys can do both as well as he can,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘It doesn’t take him five minutes to warm up. As soon as you put him in the game, that motor’s running and he’s flying around.’’

King and court

The Bulls paid tribute to Martin Luther King, with swingman Jimmy Butler addressing the crowd before the game, which was part of the NBA’s observance of Martin Luther King Day.

‘‘He was one of the great leaders of all time,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘When he talked about equality, he talked about equality for all people. You can’t say enough about the things he did. And, obviously, it’s withstood the test of time. All the stuff he did was amazing. He’s a remarkable man.’’

Cartier a keeper?

Thibodeau indicated that he would like forward Cartier Martin, recently signed to a second 10-day contract, to be signed for the rest of the season.

‘‘We’re hopeful that’ll be the case,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘Very professional. Brings a lot every day to practice, preparation. And he’s always ready. So you feel comfortable if you have an injury or foul trouble, you can throw him out there and he’s going to do his job.’’

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