Gibson making the most of USA Select Team experience
By Adam Fluck | 07.09.2012
It didn’t take long for the reality that he was part of the USA Basketball program to sink in for Bulls forward Taj Gibson.
“Right off the bat, I noticed there’s a lot of talent in the building,” Gibson told Bulls radio play-by-play announcer Chuck Swirsky of his arrival in Las Vegas.
Perhaps Gibson was simply stating the obvious, but before long, he was right in the middle of it all, defending the likes of Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony as a member of the 2012 USA Men's Select Team.
“There’s a lot of length and a lot of up and coming starters for different teams,” said Gibson. “It’s been great, playing pickup and running up and down the floor. It’s a great experience because you’re going up against the world’s best. I’m having a lot of fun.”
Gibson and 12 others are in Vegas through Thursday as they help the 2012 USA Basketball Men’s National Team prepare for this summer’s Olympics in London.
Gibson told Swirsky it’s been a humbling experience, as well as one he didn’t necessarily see coming until his coaches pulled him aside in May.
“I didn’t really understand it until I sat down and I talked to Coach [Tom] Thibodeau and Coach [Ed] Pinckney,” Gibson said of when he learned he was selected to participate. “I didn’t have a clue [the news was coming]. Basically they, along with John Paxson and all the guys, were telling me congratulations on making the team.
“But it’s humbling and I’m very grateful,” added Gibson. “I’m trying to take advantage of every situation. That’s one thing I’ve learned, to take advantage of every situation you can in life.”
In recent years, participation in the USA Basketball program has paid big dividends for young players. It was two years ago when Chicago’s Derrick Rose, who started out on the Select Team in 2008, won gold at the FIBA World Championship as a member of the USA National Men’s Team. The following season, Rose had a breakout year and was named the NBA’s youngest most valuable player ever. Several of his teammates—including Kevin Durant, Eric Gordon, Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook—also saw their careers take a significant step forward.
Gibson is hoping he’ll similarly benefit from the experience. And it could help him become more of a leader for the Bulls, something he and Thibodeau have recently discussed
“We talk every day and he told me he wants me to become more of a vocal leader,” said Gibson of Thibodeau, who he’s worked out with regularly for the last month. “I’m not a rookie anymore and it’s time to take the next step in basketball. So I want to try and lead the team as best as I can and try to be one of the guys who speaks up.”
Throughout his three professional seasons, Gibson acknowledges he has been more of a lead by example player, letting his tough, aggressive and physical play speak for itself. But now, as he did during three years at USC, he wants to become more vocal.
“It’s one of those things that comes naturally for me,” Gibson told Swirsky. “I’m not always a guy who likes to speak, but when I do, I definitely mean what I say. Talking like that was kind of tough at first. But now that I’m a veteran, it comes easy to me.”
As Gibson has learned, things don’t always go your way in the NBA. The end of last season for the Bulls—when the team lost Derrick Rose to a knee injury and both Gibson and Joakim Noah suffered sprained ankles, all while Luol Deng played with torn ligaments in his wrist—is a prime example of that.
“You’re going to have your ups and downs,” said Gibson of the grind. “But you have to be a pro all of the time. That’s what comes with the territory of being on one of the top teams in the league. You always have to take it in stride, even on your off nights.”
Gibson said he still has a difficult time accepting the Bulls’ first round postseason exit at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers.
“It was like a movie that didn’t end the way you wanted it to end,” said Gibson of last season. “It was one of those movies where you watch it and you’re puzzled at the end. Like, ‘Why did it end that way? What’s going on? Is that it?’ We wanted more to happen, but unfortunately it didn’t.”
After taking some time off to rest his body and heal his ankle, Gibson is determined to right what in his mind he feels was a wrong. And he’s confident that the group in Chicago has what it takes to do just that.
“We’re still going to come back stronger and tougher than ever,” said Gibson of next season. “We’re no stranger to having people doubt and be against us the last couple years. This year will be an even harder task, knowing that we may have a few guys down. But we’ve always had a good group of guys who are focused on helping to do whatever it takes. That’s one thing that sets us apart from everyone else’s team. The sky is the limit.”
Audio—Bulls forward Taj Gibson talks to Chuck Swirsky about his experience with USA Basketball, how he plans to be more of a team leader and what’s to come next season: