Taj Gibson is finding joy in his veteran role

Taj Gibson has been around the block. He had a productive three-year college career at USC before being drafted by the Bulls in the first round of the 2009 NBA Draft. He has played in 13 playoff series, including a run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011 with Chicago. He’s played alongside a league MVP in Derrick Rose. He’s been a starter. He’s been a reserve. He’s seen nearly everything a basketball court has to offer.

Yet Gibson remains relentless in his training. He keeps his competitive energy high. And he’s still finding joy in the little things.

On Media Day, Gibson was asked what the young guys have taught him thus far.

“They’re teaching me to smile again,” said Gibson. “Lately I’ve just been smiling. I’ve just been enjoying the ride, enjoying just waking up, honestly just to go to train and battle with them early in the mornings. It’s been phenomenal.”

Having a guy like Gibson around is invaluable for a young team with playoff aspirations. He knows the rigors of the NBA schedule. He knows how to manage the ups and downs of impressive wins and disappointing losses. He’s fine with being the biggest supporter on the bench or playing as many minutes as needed.

“I understand there’s going to be nights where I may not even play, and I’m fine with that,” said Gibson.

Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr., however, knows Gibson is going to force his hand.

“He’s going to find minutes,” said Coach Unseld said with a smile. “He’s one of those guys that’s going to force you to play him.”

“If you need me to play, I can play, and I will get the job done,” said Gibson. “But that’s not exactly why I’m here. I’m here to just try to be Taj, support the guys that are on my team and make them better.”

Coach Unseld couldn’t help himself from gushing about the benefits of having a guy like Gibson at training camp.

“He’s a pro’s pro,” said Unseld. “He brings that intensity, physicality, aggressiveness, and he’s a steadying presence for some of our young guys who get a little bit rattled at times if the game’s moving fast. He’s always lending an ear, and being that vet and mentor, which I think is tremendous.”

For Gibson, it’s really just about having fun with the grind. He loves what the young guys are bringing out of him.

“All I’ve been doing is smiling,” said Gibson with a smile. “It’s been great having [the young guys] be real responsive. Every drill, they’re calling me out there. Every drill, we’re laughing. Every drill, they want me in the drill with them. Every drill we’re just trying to get better, but at the same time, the respect level is there, and I just love it. I’m really enjoying it.”