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Taj Gibson using old tricks to make mark with Minnesota Timberwolves

A well-defined role — or the lack thereof — can make or break a player in the rigors of the NBA. Long ago, Taj Gibson forged his role as a hard-charging, defense-first power forward on the Chicago Bulls. Since his NBA debut in 2009-10, Gibson has kept that on-court persona in tact from the Bulls to a mid-season trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder to joining the Minnesota Timberwolves in free agency last summer.

The Timberwolves’ defense still leaves much to be desired (they’re 25th in Defensive Rating as of this writing). Gibson, though, continues to bring his hard-hat mentality to the frontline and is averaging a career-best 31.8 minutes a game for Minnesota. Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune caught up with Gibson to talk with him about his impact on the Wolves this season:

“Everybody says ‘dirty work,’ ” he said. “It just comes to me naturally. People telling me how much they like how I play, it’s just natural. I can’t even tell you how I play hard like that. It comes easy to me.”

“Taj can put the ball in the basket with the best of them,” said Jimmy Butler, who played with Gibson in Chicago as well. “But Taj understands what we need from him on this team. That’s why we all love Taj. He’s an incredible teammate. He guards. He shoots the ball when he’s open. He dives for loose balls, blocks shots. He does all that stuff that really gets the crowd going and gets our team going and we love him for that.”

“That’s what I loved about him,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He’s team-first. It didn’t matter if he was starting — we finished most of the time with him — he just stars in whatever role you ask him to play. That’s what makes him so valuable. You win with guys like that.”

Gibson said his biggest adjustment — and joy — has been integrating himself with new, younger teammates now that he’s this team’s second-oldest player.

“I don’t feel age, I feel great,” Gibson said. “I’m guarding 1s, 2s and 3s (point guards, shooting guards, small forwards), so I feel pretty good … I’m still fresh, I take good care of my body. I was just teasing the coaches that I can still dunk, I can still do a lot of the things they can’t do anymore.

“I’m just having fun. These guys keep me active.”

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