Gibson believes Rose will be even better than before
Bulls forward Taj Gibson talks about Derrick Rose as he recovers from a torn ACL, as well as his upcoming participation with the USA Select Team and his offseason focus
By Adam Fluck | 06.07.2012
Despite playing some of his best basketball of the season in the playoffs, Taj Gibson uses words like “hurt” and “pain” when looking back on the Bulls’ first round series, words to which fans in Chicago can certainly relate.
But Gibson, speaking at BMO Harris Bank headquarters in downtown Chicago on Thursday, expressed optimism about what lies ahead for the Bulls, choosing words like “positive,” “better” and “opportunity.”
For starters, he’s been in touch with Derrick Rose, who underwent surgery to repair his torn ACL on May 12, on several occasions. And he likes what he’s seen, as well as what he’s heard from Derrick himself.
“I’ve seen him at the Berto a lot,” said Gibson, who was on hand to help BMO Harris Bank reach its goal of assembling 2,000 Red Cross comfort kits, of Rose. “He’s been pushing it and I saw him push through a lot of pain early. I look forward to seeing our team take that energy and use it as a positive. Because every day, he’s yelling and he’s screaming from putting in so much effort trying to get his knee back. We need to see how much pain he’s going through and feed off it, put it in our daily lives.”
As for where Gibson believes Rose is at mentally, consistent with what others have gathered, the young point guard’s spirits remain high.
Gibson was on hand Thursday to help BMO Harris Bank reach its goal of assembling 2,000 Red Cross comfort kits which contain basic toiletry supplies for disaster-affected individuals and families.
“I think he’s doing great,” said Gibson of Rose. “I think he’s improving quicker than people have expected him to improve. He’s in there every day and he’s pushing it to the limits every time I see him. I think he’ll come back even better than he was before.”
While the team put on a good face following Rose’s injury, it was ultimately a challenge that proved too difficult to overcome. But Gibson believes he and his teammates are willing and able to embrace moving forward knowing Rose will likely miss the first few months of the 2012-13 season.
“We just have to have guys step up a little more,” said Gibson of starting the season without Rose. “Seeing that we ended the [Philadelphia] series on a bad note, I feel like we can take a lot of positives [from it]. We can take a lot of the negatives, switch them around and do better things. I felt we learned a lot from that series and you never want to feel bad for yourselves. We have to keep pushing and keep playing; just try to get back to where we were last year.”
Rose, of course, is also looking to regain his form. And Gibson has little doubt he will do just that.
“I think he’s going to be better in my honest opinion,” Gibson reiterated. “It’s tough when you’re coming off so many different injuries. You [usually] don’t have time to work on your body [during the season]. But after this injury, he’ll understand more than ever how important it is to maintain your body and stay on top of your legs. As he works through this recovery, he’s already been pushing his legs and it’s great.”
While Rose will be busy working on his recovery this offseason, Gibson will have his hands full as well. And though he can hang his hat on the fact that he played well in the postseason, averaging 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, the fact that the Bulls fell short is what will motivate him until players report for training camp in the fall.
“I was happy with how I played, but it was sad we had a lot of injuries, especially late,” said Gibson. “It hurts to go out like that, especially when we played such good basketball all season long. It really hurt, but it’s just more motivation for us this summer. We have to take that pain and make it into something positive.”
Throughout the season for the Bulls and virtually every other team in the NBA, injuries were an issue and the depth of benches became of the utmost importance. Gibson and his fellow Bench Mob teammates were often called upon to fill a void when a starter was unable to go, and they regularly responded.
“I was happy with how I played, but it was sad we had a lot of injuries, especially late,” said Gibson of facing the Sixers in the first round of the postseason. “It hurts to go out like that, especially when we played such good basketball all season long. It really hurt, but it’s just more motivation for us this summer. We have to take that pain and make it into something positive.”
In Game 4 of the Bulls and Sixers’ first round series in particular, Gibson started in place of the injured Joakim Noah and finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. Approaching situations like that isn’t easy for a player used to a reserve role, but Gibson proved he was up for the challenge time and time again.
“My mentality was to come in and play hard with the same morals I’ve played with the last three years,” said Gibson. “Knowing I had been in that situation before, with Carlos [Boozer] going down [last season], Joakim going down the year before, I was ready. My teammates were very encouraging and I just went out there and laid it on the line. We tried to get a win and unfortunately in that game, we didn’t pull it off. But it’s good motivation.”
Gibson’s Game 4 stats aside, his value for the Bulls night in and night out was often evident in his intangibles, specifically his usual high energy and aggressiveness.
“Coach Thibs has me playing a significant role coming in off the bench; being a spark plug and a guy that brings energy,” said Gibson. “He understands what I bring to the game and I just feed off it. I feed off my teammates. We’ve got a good bunch of guys who understand each other and we play off each other’s positions.”
Next up for Gibson, he’ll join a dozen other players for the 2012 USA Men’s Select Team that will train against the 2012 USA Basketball Men’s National Team during its July 6-12 training camp in Las Vegas.
“Being selected means somebody liked what I’ve been doing,” said Gibson. “I look at it as an opportunity to go and work out with some of the best players, learn from it, and get better. Then, I’ll take what I learn from the USA team and use it in everyday life, as well as with the Bulls. It’s an honor. I’m just privileged to go out there and play.”
Gibson will benefit from facing some of the NBA’s other rising young stars, big men including Orlando’s Ryan Anderson, San Antonio’s DeJuan Blair, Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins and Utah’s Derrick Favors.
“That’s the main thing, getting out there and practicing with some of the elite [players] of the NBA,” said Gibson. “Just going and learning good habits, getting my confidence up, working on my offense, going out there and enjoying the game; meeting with great coaches and playing with some of the best young talent around. I’m blessed.
“I’m looking forward to going and competing, just being physical and aggressive,” added Gibson. “I’ll work on my game, learn from it, and maybe learn some things from them. It’s all about getting better.”
Beyond the Select Team, there are several aspects of Gibson’s game he intends to focus on this summer.
“I just want to build off of that last playoff series,” said Gibson. “My confidence grew as far as my post game. Lately, I’ve been working on making my jump shot more consistent. I felt like it fell off a little bit towards the end of the season. I’m trying to be more of a knock down, 15-foot guy. But mostly [I am concerned about] my post up work, getting more confidence and being more ready. I’m looking forward to playing a lot of basketball this summer and trying not to take any days off.”