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Taj Gibson Is The Leader The Wolves Need

by Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager

Digital Content Manager

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Taj Gibson is entering just his second year with the Timberwolves.

So, why does it seem like he’s been here for a decade?

And we mean that in a very good way, unlike a kid moving in with his parents after college and all-of-the-sudden that kid is 36 years old and still doesn’t know how to do laundry.

This is more that Gibson is such a fan favorite among Timberwolves fans, it feels like he’s had to be here longer.

The Timberwolves have young pillars such as Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Those two will lead the team in jersey sales this season.

And while there is some uncertainty surrounding the team with the Jimmy Butler situation, there’s absolutely no uncertainty surrounding Taj Gibson. He's this team's rock.

It’s noticeable on the court, but also off. He’s level-headed in all of his media interviews and shoots it straight. He admitted at media day that indeed, the Butler situation was a bit awkward, but at the same time, he’s a professional and understands what needs to be done.

“­­I have no problem with that role (of being a leader),” Gibson said. “ . . . I’m just going to try to help the guys. I’m not saying I’m going to be a leader, telling guys what to do. I’m just going to stay in my role and my role is to try to help guys get better.”

“I’m just that guy that goes out there and try to just pick up the pieces. Try to help the team. Keep everyone level headed.”

The video content crew with the Timberwolves put together a “Glue Guy” video of Gibson last season. If he was Elmer’s Glue last season, this season he’s Flex Glue (shoutout to Phil Swift).

Glue guys never get the credit they deserve. And those players tend not to care, hence why they're glue guys. From the outside, it looks like just a role player. And while the stats might tell us that, what happens behind the scenes tells a totally different story. For example, Andrew Wiggins will be the first to tell you that he had a disappointing third season. The media took note, especially after his contract extension. The reasons for the struggles? Wiggins went from the first or second option to the third and was asked to do things he hadn’t always done.

But the one player who had his back all season long was Gibson.

“I already took a liking to Wigs so many times last year,” Gibson said. “He was the one guy that I felt like he didn’t really get too much credit the way he handled himself when a lot of guys really got hurt. How he handled himself during the games. A lot of things that you don’t really see.”

In his first season with the Wolves, the 32-year-old Gibson had the best season of his career. He averaged 12.2 points per game (highest since 2013-14) and 7.1 rebounds (highest since 2009-10) while shooting a career-high 57.7 percent from the field and 76.8 percent from the free-throw line. He played in all 82 games and was everything that fans hoped he would be for the team, and a whole lot more.

Defensively, Gibson brought communication to the team, and the ability to switch onto smaller guards – something a Wolves big hasn’t been able to do since the KG days.

His defense, especially in Game 82, was a big reason why the Wolves made the playoffs since 2003-04.

“You got to have a lot of heart, got to put your teammates first and try to just understand your job and understand that it’s mano a mano sometimes and it’s trying to lock down a guy,” Gibson said of his defensive mentality.

Gibson enters his 10th season, and he’s helped his team to the playoffs nine times. That’s not a coincidence.

He'll be trying to help the Wolves make their second-straight postseason appearance. A lot of what he will do for the team won't end up on the stat sheet. And that's what makes him Taj Gibson.