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Backup big man Taj Gibson playing with confidence

Taj Gibsthrows down dunk. (Michael Perez/AP Photo)

Taj Gibson throws down a dunk. (Michael Perez/AP Photo)

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Updated: October 13, 2013 8:29PM

RIO DE JANEIRO — It didn’t take 18 points, eight rebounds and four blocks from backup big man Taj Gibson on Saturday to remind coach Tom Thibodeau of his value.

‘‘You could make a case that Taj has been our best player in camp,’’ Thibodeau said.

That’s a much better place than where Gibson was at this point last year. With a contract extension weighing on his shoulders during the preseason and knee problems slowing him down during the regular season, Gibson had a disappointing 2012-13.

‘‘I feel a lot more comfortable,’’ Gibson said. ‘‘I know the sets, I know the plays and I’m getting touches in the post, so I feel a lot more comfortable with that right now. My shot is real good right now. It’s all about taking it and running with it.’’

Gibson’s ability to play power forward and center will allow Thibodeau to give starters Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah some rest. It also will give the second unit a
go-to presence in the low post.

‘‘[Last season] wasn’t up to his standards,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He’s playing with a lot of confidence now.’’

Voices from the past

Point guard Derrick Rose got high praise from Horace Grant last week, and Scottie Pippen added to that.

Asked Saturday if Rose could be the player who brings a championship trophy back to Chicago, Pippen — who works as a special adviser to team president Michael Reinsdorf — didn’t mince words.

‘‘Well, that’s what we believe as a team, or we wouldn’t have drafted him,’’ Pippen said. ‘‘He’s a very serious player and wants to win, so there is no doubt in our mind that Derrick Rose will win a championship with the Chicago Bulls.’’

He then paused before adding: ‘‘I may have to come back and help him.’’


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