Taj Gibson out with fractured rib

So the doctors looked at the X-ray. Then they looked at Taj Gibson. Huh! Looked back at the X-ray with the big spot on Gibson’s rib, where it was fractured. You’ve been playing with this for how long? they thought.

“I didn’t know (it was cracked/fractured),” Gibson was saying before Thursday’s game in Houston. “I was just playing through it. At nights it would be real painful, lot of ice. But I didn’t know. I been playing through so much pain I didn’t know what’s what. I just kept playing.

“After the Atlanta game we got an X-ray and it showed up right quick; it wasn’t hard to spot,” Gibson said. “It was bam! A nice size. They were ‘Are you OK?’

‘I’m fine, we’ve got to get them tomorrow.’

“They were like (shocked). ‘Are you OK?’

“I was, ‘Yeah, I’m fine. It hurts, but I’ll be OK.’”

Yes, the Bulls battling power forward, Gibson, had been playing through a fractured rib for who knows how long, even having some of his best games of the season in trying to rally a slumping Bulls team. But after giving it a try heavily wrapped in Indiana Monday, even Gibson had to surrender to the pain.

That’s why Gibson was out Thursday in Houston.

Bobby Portis drew the start with coach Fred Hoiberg saying he wanted to keep Nikola Mirotic in his regular role off the bench. Hoiberg also said Cristiano Felicio would get more playing time after an impressive late effort in the win over Indiana. Plus, Hoiberg said Derrick Rose would start and see how it went with a hyperextended left elbow from the Indiana game.

And so as the Bulls come staggering down the stretch, Hoiberg also said Jimmy Butler’s declining statistics is a reflection of a series of injuries he’s dealing with.

“He’s (Butler) laboring out there,” Hoiberg said. “He’d be the first one to tell you just how sore he is with his body; he has back stiffness, leg issues. He’s out there battling through it. He said he’s not going to leave his teammates out to dry. He’s going to go out and help us battle and fight for the playoff spot.”

So is Rose and so was Gibson until it even got too much for him. Though Gibson said it’s just temporary as he cannot even raise his arms without throbbing pain. Gibson said he’s playing again this season. He just doesn’t know when as yet.

“It’s hard to laugh, it’s hard to sneeze,” Gibson said with a tight smile as he sat courtside. “In the post, every time somebody just touches me, hitting, hitting, hitting, every time I go for a shot, a block, a shot, I’m getting hit (and in pain). We’ve put a lot of padding around it, but there’s only so much you can do.

“Just pushing it, trying to help the team wherever I can,” said Gibson. “When we went to Indiana, I tried to get whatever minutes I could. The pain was too much to bear (so he sat out the second half). I’m doing it for my teammates. I believe in the good cause. I’m trying to play for my coach, do all the right things. That’s what leadership is about.

“I’ve been playing with it for some time now,” Gibson acknowledged. “I just kept trying to push the X-ray off. I wanted to play, help the team. I don’t know (when it happened); it’s been so many games. The contact down low is always so physical it’s hard to say.

“It’s a pain tolerance level,” Gibson explained. “I get myself ready before the game. I’ve been warming up differently. I’ve been playing through it, just trying to play hard for the team. I can always rest my body after the season. It’s a once in a lifetime experience (playing for the playoffs and in the NBA). Every year fades by I try to give my all. So I know at the end of the day I know I gave my all.

“They kept making sure I was OK,” Gibson said. “Then that night after Atlanta with that constant hitting and then I fell and somebody fell on top of me, the pain was too much and we got the X-ray. Now my muscles are spasming around it. Every day has been a struggle, but I’m optimistic I’ll be fine. Just got to get it calmed down, get my muscles calmed down around it.

“Of course (I’ll play this season), hands down without a question,” Gibson said as if shocked by the question. “We’re trying to make a playoff push. Until it’s all said and done I’m ready to play. Things happen when you are going out and playing hard. I just have to play through it.”