Chicago Bulls: Taj Gibson

Bulls player reviews: Taj Gibson

May, 7, 2014
May 7
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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Taj GibsonJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesTaj Gibson's offense is what really made the difference in his play for the Bulls in 2013-14.

Taj Gibson


2013-14 salary: $7,550,000 | Age: 28 | Season stats: 13.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG.

Season recap: Gibson enjoyed the best season of his professional career. He played his customary solid defense throughout, but it was his offense that was the difference. He was much more confident offensively and enjoyed going to work down on the blocks. Gibson repeatedly credited Bulls assistant coach Mike Wilhelm for spending extra hours with him in the gym and working on his game.

Season highlight: Gibson scored a career-high 32 points and grabbed seven rebounds in a Game 4 loss to the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. He was one of the only Bulls players who looked as if he were ready to play in the game.

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Will Taj Gibson become an All-Star next season?

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    62%
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    38%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,858)

Season lowlight: Gibson was ejected in a Nov. 21 game against the Denver Nuggets. It was a call with which he did not agree.

"I was not talking to the ref," Gibson said at the time. "I was just talking to Nate [Robinson]. But the ref, he just bugged out. Me and Nate was talking the whole game back and forth, but it was fun. It was good to see him. We were just joking around."

Final grade: A.

Notes: Gibson sprained his ankle at the end of Game 5 of the Wizards' series and had to be helped off the floor. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau didn't sound too concerned the injury would linger much into the summer.

Quotes: "We wouldn't be in this position right now if it wasn't for Taj," Joakim Noah said of Gibson in April. "His improvement from when he first came into the league to now is crazy. He's just somebody who really cares about winning -- more than anyone I've ever been around. So, he really wants to win and that's his main priority, and I think he deserves (the Sixth Man award). There's nobody that comes even close to what he brings to this team."

What's next? If the Bulls decide to amnesty the final year of Carlos Boozer's contract, there's a very good chance Gibson will open next season as their starting power forward. Gibson proved he can handle more minutes and would likely thrive in the new role if this past season is any indication. He must continue to work on his game in the summer, especially on offense, and take the next step in his progression.

Thibs plays with fire, Bulls still good

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
11:50
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tom Thibodeau had a simple message for his team before it played in Wednesday night's game against the Charlotte Bobcats.

"Before the game, he was like, 'Be prepared to win,'" Bulls guard Jimmy Butler said.

[+] EnlargeTom Thibodeau
Sam Sharpe/USA TODAY SportsTom Thibodeau didn't let up on the intensity in the Bulls' regular-season finale, but that's no surprise.
Thibodeau didn't care about the fact it was the 82nd game of the regular season. He didn't care that the Bulls would be best served to land in the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff seedings and would avoid a possible second-round matchup with the Miami Heat. He didn't care that Butler had piled up plenty of minutes over the course of a long NBA season -- Thibodeau did not want to change the way he prepared his team to play at all.

"He told that to everybody," Butler said of the message. "He played guys -- he wanted to win the game. All those minutes, I think it was worth it. But, obviously, we didn't pull it out. We didn't win."

Butler sat in front of his locker stall with the same tired look on his face he usually has after games as he said this. The Bulls didn't beat the Bobcats, but Thibodeau's message was clear: The Bulls play to win every game. It is a belief that has defined him in his career and one he's not going to turn his back on now. The veteran coach knows he'll be criticized for his decisions, but he doesn't care. He doesn't care what fans think, he doesn't care what the media thinks, he doesn't care what some people in the organization think -- all Thibodeau cares about is doing what he thinks is best for his team at that given moment.

"I just didn't think we needed to do that," Thibodeau said when asked why he chose not to rest guys. "I think D.J. [Augustin] missed a game, so I think it was important for him to get minutes. Once you start resting guys, sometimes they get out of rhythm, and for us right now, I think our team is well rested. We've been concerned with rest for a while, and we've given our guys a lot of days off. So from the rest standpoint, I think we're in great shape. You want the rhythm, you want to be playing well, you got to be sharp."

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Gibson dominates in 'dogfight' with Pacers

March, 24, 2014
Mar 24
10:54
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls are not scared of the Indiana Pacers. They think they can beat them every time they hit the floor, and they get angry when they don't. Taj Gibson embodies this attitude, and sounded especially proud of his team's effort in Monday night's 89-77 victory. The veteran forward was frustrated by the way he played in Friday night's loss in Indianapolis -- frustration which spilled over in his postgame comments when he said some Indiana players were "flopping."

Gibson was determined to change his fortunes in this game, setting a tone early on that the rest of his teammates followed. He showed the emotion that has defined the Bulls, and scored 23 points and pulled down eight rebounds in the process.

"We're not scared of anybody, really," Gibson said. "We're really not. It just comes down to guys just playing hard. People don't understand we like a dogfight. We like to be physical. We like the physicality of the game. We're not really focused on guys coming in scoring like 150 points. We're going to wind you down and we're going to fight and you're going to be feeling it the next day. And that's what kind of game it was tonight: It was a dogfight."

Gibson and the Bulls got exactly what they wanted. They thrive off the fact that teams think they can outmuscle them and they scoff at the notion that Indiana is a better team. The reality for the Bulls is that they believe they can knock off the Pacers in a seven-game series should they meet in the playoffs. A notion that was only strengthened after such a solid performance on Monday.

"We love it," Gibson said of the physical nature of the game. "You see Joakim [Noah] amped. Everyone on our team was amped because if you want to say it's a rivalry -- they're in the Central Division. We're both fighting for the same thing. We both want to get to the championship level and one day hopefully pass the Heat. Both teams are fighting for that and every game is a step to get better. And tonight we took another step to get better."

[+] EnlargeTaj Gibson
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast"You're going to be feeling it the next day," Taj Gibson said of opponents having played the Bulls.
The Bulls took that step by being the aggressor in the second half. They knocked the Pacers in the mouth and didn't allow them to set the type of tone they had on Friday. For Gibson, that meant bringing his passion to both ends of the floor and staying out of foul trouble, something he didn't accomplish the last time around.

"Every game is different," Noah said. "But I knew Taj wanted that game bad. I said right after [Friday's] game, 'I'm really excited about having an opportunity to play these guys again.' Taj played big for us. Every game is different, but he definitely came with a great mindset and set the tone for us tonight."

In Gibson's mind, the difference was that he was more assertive.

"I just took my looks," he said. "When it came to me, I didn't hesitate. All year long I've been taking my looks. That game, I just didn't come out with my normal spunk I normally do. ... I was frustrated and I was focused. I wanted to play good in the Sixers game [on Saturday], I wanted to play good tonight. I was focused on this game and we all were. I just focused."

Gibson's teammates fed off of the focus he described. As a group, the Bulls wanted this game badly. It was clear from the emotions that Gibson and his teammates displayed all night. They believe they are still the second-best team in the East behind Miami, and they wanted to prove it on Monday.

"You go down the list, every night guys have had different nights where they've upped the level of play of their teammates," Bulls guard Mike Dunleavy said. "So tonight, Taj was that to go along with Jo. But I thought everybody really played well, really brought it, and it was good to see."

Nobody was happier with the result than Gibson. After such a strong season, it was strange to see him play so poorly against an Indiana team he is usually so eager to face. He made sure he didn't make the same mistakes twice -- and he took some extra motivation from the words he heard from Pacers players throughout the night.

"Coming from their bench they were talking so much trash," Gibson said. "And then you've got David West talking trash, you've got [Roy] Hibbert talking trash -- I don't talk trash, I just play my game. I'm not into that. I let the action happen and let it be done with. But I'm not really a talker unless they really want to bring it out of me."

They brought it out of Gibson in a big way Monday, and he delivered with one of his best games of the season.

Thibodeau: Boozer will start when healthy

February, 13, 2014
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CHICAGO -- Carlos Boozer says he wants to play on Thursday night against the Brooklyn Nets as he continues to recover from a left calf strain that has bothered him off and on for the last month.

[+] EnlargeBoozer/Thibodeau
AP Photo/Michael ConroyCarlos Boozer says he wants to play Thursday and if he does, Tom Thibodeau will start him.
Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau wants to make it clear that Boozer will remain in the starting lineup whenever he's ready to play again.

"For us to achieve what we want to achieve," Thibodeau said Wednesday night, “we need Carlos.

When asked specifically if Boozer would return to the starting lineup when he was healthy -- even with Taj Gibson playing so well in his place -- Thibodeau said he would.

"Yeah," he said. "Carlos has been a big part of our team. We need him to play well, and we're hopeful that he'll be back soon.

"I have to know what the minutes restrictions are, but Carlos is an important part of our team."

The Bulls have been more balanced with Gibson in the starting lineup over the last week, something Thibodeau discussed after Tuesday's win over the Atlanta Hawks. But the Bulls remain publicly confident Boozer can help them down the stretch, even though Boozer said last week he was upset he wasn’t playing more fourth-quarter minutes.

Bulls GM Gar Forman reiterated that the decision on whether or not to amnesty the final year of Boozer's contract has not been made yet.

"Those are decisions that are made down the road," Forman said. "I think Carlos has had a good year also. I know the calf has been bothering him recently. But it's really an advantage to have two guys at that position that can give you that production both in points and rebounding on a nightly basis, and that's a plus for our team moving forward."

Boozer is averaging 14.8 points and 8.6 rebounds a game this year -- the worst statistical season during his four years with the Bulls. For his part, Boozer believes he will be in better shape once the All-Star break hits and he has a little more time for his calf to heal.

"I had like a tear in it a while back," Boozer said. "Kind of had another one a couple weeks ago and so this one happened. I had to let it heal a little bit. The break will be good for it."

Opening Tip: Taj Sixth Man Worthy?

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
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CLEVELAND -- Taj Gibson isn't a boastful type of guy. He plays hard, he plays to win and he plays to back up his teammates. He proved that again in Wednesday night's 98-87 victory against Cleveland, scoring a career-high 26 points and making 11 of his 15 attempts from the field.

Gibson's solid play has been a key to the Chicago Bulls' recent resurgence and it's a reason why the veteran forward admits he would like to be in the running for the Sixth Man of the Year award.

[+] EnlargeTaj Gibson
David Richard/USA TODAY SportsBulls forward Taj Gibson is hoping his play will garner some votes for the Sixth Man of the Year award.
"I'd like to think so," Gibson said. "I'd like to look at ... a sixth man as a guy who helps the team in any kind of situation. I play defense, I rebound, do a lot of different things to help my team. I'm not just looking at scoring, even though my scoring has improved.

"It's all about helping your team. And that's why I look at being the sixth man as a guy that chips in, does it all, not just score."

Gibson is averaging a career high 11.7 points this season and continues to garner praise from his teammates and coaches.

Toko looking for time: New acquisition Tornike Shengelia didn't see any action in Wednesday's game, but he is happy to be playing for the Bulls after being dealt from the Brooklyn Nets for Marquis Teague.

Shengelia described his game this way after Wednesday morning's shootaround.

"Real physical," he said. "I can penetrate. I'm working on my shot. I can play 3, 4. I can post up, penetrate, pass the ball."

As for his thoughts on the Bulls, Shengelia was impressed from afar.

"They had a lot of energy," he said. "It doesn't matter if they're up [or not], they're fighting. That's the type of team I like, the type of player I am."

Augustin stepping up: D.J. Augustin scored 19 of his 27 points in the second half and is continuing to play well as the Bulls face going without Kirk Hinrich (hamstring) for an extended length of time.

Like his teammates, Augustin is just happy to be in a good situation.

"Just going out there and just having fun," he said of his mindset. "Playing free, doing what Coach wants me to do, and I'm playing with great guys. So they make it easy for me."

The last word: Gibson, on the trash talk between Deng and his former teammates:

"Oh, yeah, it was a lot of trash talk. At one point I switched on him and was like, ‘Lu, I know every move you want to do. I know you want to pump fake and make me jump in the air. I know all your moves.’ Next play, he’s like, ‘All right. I’m going to turn it up. I’m about to play even harder.’ I’m like, ‘Wow, Lu.’ But it was just crazy trash talk. But it was good."

Thibodeau trumps Deng on reunion night

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
11:16
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CLEVELAND -- After all the pregame hugs and handshakes were over and the well-wishes and deserved praise for Luol Deng ceased, Tom Thibodeau offered up another clinic as to why the Chicago Bulls will always be all right no matter which players he has on his roster.

Wednesday's win over Deng and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bulls' ninth in their past 11 games, was another reminder as to why Thibodeau is one of the best coaches in the league.

The Bulls still miss Deng's presence on and off the floor and will surely miss him down the stretch of the 82-game season. But the void he left after being dealt to Cleveland earlier this month isn't nearly as big as it could have been, thanks in large part to Thibodeau.

[+] EnlargeLuol Deng
AP Photo/Mark DuncanTom Thibodeau and the Bulls allowed Luol Deng but two makes on 11 attempts in their first meeting since his trade to the Cavaliers.
The coach was the one who devised the game plan that made Deng basically irrelevant on Wednesday, allowing him just two makes on 11 attempts. He's the one who made the adjustments that slowed down Kyrie Irving to the tune of just eight second-half points after scoring 18 in the first half.

Most of all, Thibodeau is the man who got players such as Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson to believe in the fact they could still win games after Deng left. Thibodeau made his leaders believe the season wasn't over when many others had given up hope.

"There's a resolve to our team," Thibodeau said. "There's a great fighting spirit, and there's a great will. I think if you have those things, you have a chance."

If you have a great scheme, the chances to win are even greater. Having been around Deng for so many years, Thibodeau and his players knew exactly what they wanted to do when they saw their former teammate on the floor.

"We tried to get the ball out of his hands as much as possible," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "Put a lot of pressure on him. We know both their bigs are rolling to the basket, so we were able to be more aggressive on Lu and put more pressure on him."

Bulls forward Gibson, who tied a career high with 26 points, knew what Deng's plan was and tried to keep him out of his comfort zone when he saw him on the floor.

"At times we just had to switch different guys on him," Gibson said. "At one point, he was getting a lot of foul calls, especially offensively. He got himself going at the foul line. I know Lu, too. That’s how he gets himself going. If he can’t hit a shot early, he attacks the rim and looks to get fouls. We looked to take that away from him. No long-range 3s; we were on his 3-point game. We just tried to make him frustrated. Because once he gets in his rhythm, it’s really tough to slow him down. We did a good job. D.J. [Augustin] even chipped in and guarded him some. It was a team effort."

For his part, Deng admitted what his former teammates knew going in: The entire experience was weird. Seeing Deng in a Cavs jersey, after spending nine years in Bulls jersey, was a little bizarre.

"It was strange," Deng said. "But it's the Cavs versus the Bulls. It's not so much about me. We could have played better."

This game was about Deng, though. His old teammates knew it, and his old coach definitely knew it. In order to win, the Bulls had to shut down Deng -- and that's exactly what they did.

"It felt weird because it was tension even before the game," Gibson said. "We wasn’t talking or nothing. It was exactly like how Thibs said: 'We love him but we’re going to go knock him on his butt when he tries to score. After the game, we can be friends.'

"But I felt like everybody stepped in and did a good job guarding him, taking him out of the game early, making it tough on him. And that was big because he’s been playing very well lately."

After it was over, the All-Star forward said he didn't believe he was trying to force looks against his old team.

"If I was forcing things, I would've shot 30 shots," Deng said. "I really try to play the game within myself. [Chicago] played good [defense] and I just missed shots. I'm not happy with my performance, but that's a good defensive team."

Deng knows better than anyone the Bulls are a good defensive team because of the effort their players show on a nightly basis, but mostly because of Thibodeau's will. He has the ability to get the most out of his team each and every night, and he proved again on Wednesday against one of his favorite former players.

"We're just going out there believing," Bulls guard D.J. Augustin said. "Whoever we have playing that night, we believe we can win. And that's the way we're playing, with that edge. And we're just going after every team we're playing against."

Rapid Reaction: Bulls 98, Cavaliers 87

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
8:24
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CLEVELAND -- Let's take a quick look at how the Chicago Bulls earned a 98-87 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena.

How it happened: Taj Gibson tied a career high with 26 points to lead the Bulls over former teammate Luol Deng and the Cavs. D.J. Augustin had another solid game, scoring 27 points, while Joakim Noah chipped in with nine points, 18 rebounds and six assists as Tom Thibodeau's team ramped up its defense in the second half. Kyrie Irving led the Cavs with 20 points, but he scored just two in the second half.

What it means: The Bulls still miss Deng, but they haven't missed him nearly as much as many fans thought because they have players such as Gibson and Noah who still play hard and produce. Most importantly, they still have Thibodeau. He's the one who devised the plan that shut down Deng all night and that made the adjustments to limit Irving in the final 24 minutes. No matter who is hurt (Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich didn't play) or which players may end up also getting dealt, the Bulls will continue to win games because of Thibodeau and his ability to get the most out of his players night to night.

Stat of the night: The Bulls obviously made it a point to contain Deng. He scored 11 points but was just 2-for-11 from the field and didn't have a major impact on the game.

Hits: Mike Dunleavy had 22 points off the bench, going 4-for-5 from beyond the arc.

Misses: Jimmy Butler's shooting woes continue. He was just 4-for-12 from the field, including 1-for-7 from behind the 3-point line.

What's next: The Bulls take on the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night in Chicago.

Opening Tip: Teague happy to be back

January, 16, 2014
Jan 16
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Marquis Teague is happy to be back in an NBA locker room. The second-year point guard returned to the Chicago Bulls' bench Wednesday night after spending close to a month in the D-League.

"It was good," Teague said of his D-League experience. "It just felt good to really get out there and get a chance to play. Go out there and play my game and just have some fun."

Teague admitted he lost some of his confidence over the past few months. He struggled to find a regular place in coach Tom Thibodeau's rotation since the season began.

"Yeah, you lose your rhythm," he said. "A lot of things. It's kind of like you just got to stay in the gym as much as you can, keep working. But it's tough. It's easier said than done. It's tough."

Thibodeau was asked before the game whether Teague's lack of development is hurting the Bulls' long-term point guard development.

"I guess you guys take a much broader view than I do," he said. "I'm just worried about tonight and [Thursday]. That's it. Anytime you have a young player ... Marquis has had some good moments too. He's still very young. We look at [Erik Murphy] the same way. You're usually going to play eight or nine guys. The guys who aren't in the rotation have to stay ready. You never know. You're an injury or foul trouble away from being in there. You're trying to figure out what's best for the team first. Then you look at the player and ask yourself if he would benefit from playing in a few games down there. That's what we do. At the end of the season, we'll look at where he is and go from there."

For his part, Teague said the biggest thing he learned in the D-League was to just try to stay aggressive. He said he kept in touch with Bulls players, coaches and front-office executives during his stint with the Iowa Energy.

"They just want me to go out there and get some confidence going and just get some minutes," Teague said of the front office's message. "That's just my opportunity to play, and I tried to use it as that and just grow as a player."

Murphy to the D-League?: With Teague back on the Bulls' roster, Thibodeau hinted again that Murphy, a rookie, might be headed to the D-League soon.

"We'll take a look at it," Thibodeau said. "And things have to match up in terms of where we are in terms of what we need in practice and also where they are in terms of where they are with their games. It worked out; I believe Marquis played in eight games, so that was good. It was a short amount of time for him to be away but a lot of games. So that was good."

The last word: Bulls forward Taj Gibson on bouncing back physically and mentally from another triple-overtime game: "Well, we got a day and a half. [We'll] get some rest. But most importantly, we've got guys that just live in the gym. I went to the gym [Tuesday] night. Tony Snell lives in the gym. We've got guys [who are] really hungry to get better and stay in the gym. So I bet a lot of guys will be in the gym [Thursday] to get ready for this next game."

The last word, Part II: Thibodeau on Jimmy Butler's performance on Wednesday night: "Jimmy, 60 minutes, named after a TV show, I guess. He was awesome."

Thibodeau also noted that his favorite TV show is "60 Minutes."

Rapid Reaction: Bulls 92, Suns 87

January, 7, 2014
Jan 7
9:41
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHICAGO -- Let's take a quick look at how the Chicago Bulls earned a 92-87 win over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night at the United Center.

How it happened: Joakim Noah had a huge night for the Bulls, scoring 14 points, grabbing 16 rebounds and dishing out 6 assists. Taj Gibson led the Bulls with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists. Goran Dragic led the Suns with 21 points, but it wasn't enough as the Bulls built a big lead down the stretch and hung onto it by playing solid team basketball.

What it means: Playing with only nine players, and without Luol Deng (traded to Cleveland) and Carlos Boozer (sore knee), the Bulls executed well and seemed to play with the type of pace coach Tom Thibodeau has been searching for. The fact that the Bulls won this game shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Thibodeau is a master at getting the most out of his players when pundits have counted them out. Without Deng in the lineup, Chicago had to find other ways to win. The Bulls' roster is full of prideful players who aren't about to roll over for the rest of the year. The question is can they keep this up over the long haul?

Hits: Tony Snell had 12 points and was 5-for-7 from the field in 21 minutes.

Misses: Jimmy Butler had 13 points, but he was just 4-for-18 from the field in 41 minutes.

Stats of the night: Assists: Bulls 26, Suns 12. Rebounds: Bulls 50, Suns 41.

What's next: The Bulls take on the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night.

Korver recalls time with Bulls fondly

January, 5, 2014
Jan 5
2:23
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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[+] EnlargeKyle Korver
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Hawks' Kyle Korver enjoyed his two years with the Bulls and coach Tom Thibodeau.
CHICAGO -- No matter how far Kyle Korver gets away from Chicago, a piece of his heart still remains with the Bulls. That's because Korver, and his former teammates, know that what they experienced under Tom Thibodeau doesn't happen much in the NBA.

Korver's first two seasons with the Bulls also coincided with Thibodeau's first two seasons in Chicago. The Bulls led the league in regular-season wins and left an indelible mark on the popular Atlanta Hawks sharpshooter.

"I have so much respect for the core of the Chicago Bulls the last few years," Korver said after the Bulls beat the Hawks on Saturday night. "Just the way they approach practice, the way they approach games, the way they approach details, the way they play every day. When you've been a part of that, like the blood, sweat and tears, for a couple years, it kind of carves a spot in your heart a little bit. Obviously, Chicago is an incredible city to play basketball in. The Bulls uniform, there's so much history to it. So I really appreciated my two years here. I'm glad to be a Hawk, I'm excited about where we're headed. But for sure there was a good couple years here. Fun."

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Consistent Mike Dunleavy lifts Bulls to win

January, 4, 2014
Jan 4
11:22
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CHICAGO -- Joakim Noah has a theory as to why Mike Dunleavy went off for 20 points in Saturday night's win over the Atlanta Hawks.

"He's consistent, man," Noah said in a happy Chicago Bulls locker room that was blaring Oasis' "Wonderwall" after the 91-84 victory. "He's always the same. Never too high, never too low. A very consistent player. He was huge tonight. I think he took this matchup with [Kyle] Korver pretty seriously."

[+] EnlargeMike Dunleavy, Elton Brand
Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/MCTMike Dunleavy has been a steady and strong presence for the Bulls this season.
Dunleavy downplayed the encounter with Korver, the popular former Bull, but it's hard to argue that his calm demeanor has helped keep the Bulls steady offensively over the past few weeks. Dunleavy's ability to remain emotionally solid and knock down shots when given the chance is one of the biggest reasons the Bulls signed him over the summer.

For a guy who came to Chicago to chase a championship alongside Derrick Rose, his going with the flow as the Bulls’ championship aspirations have disappeared is something his teammates and coaches respect about him.

Dunleavy has his own ideas as to why he has remained the same this season despite of all his new team's adversity.

"Well, one, knock on wood, staying healthy," he said. "Being able to practice and play every day, which has been good. And being around this league a long time, 12 years, a lot of things happen. You know that throughout the course of the season. So you just don't let it affect you too much.

"And now with the guys back, Jimmy [Butler] and Lu [Deng], I'm kind of in my more natural role coming off the bench. And I'm more comfortable with that."

Some Bulls fans are still upset that the organization decided to ink Dunleavy instead of re-signing popular reserve Marco Belinelli. While Belinelli has thrived this season with the San Antonio Spurs, Dunleavy has failed, at times, to make as big a difference as fans would have hoped.

What some fans forget is that Dunleavy was brought in to play alongside Rose. He was viewed as a better option because of his ability to knock down 3-pointers consistently -- something Belinelli struggled to do at times last season.

No matter which side you come down on, the reality is that Dunleavy has played about as well as expected, given the circumstances. As a group, the Bulls are playing their best basketball since Rose was injured Nov. 22. They have gone back to their roots -- solid defense and aggressive play.

"We fought hard tonight," Noah said. "It wasn't pretty, but we just found a way. Some nights it's going to be like that. When your shot isn't going, it's ugly offensively. You just got to dig down defensively, you got to rebound, you got to make it grimy. I think we did a good job."

Bulls forward Taj Gibson echoed those sentiments. He and his teammates know there are still a lot of games to play, but they are confident in the direction in which they are headed.

"We got a long way to go," Gibson said. "We know we're humble. We know it's going to take one game at a time, one play at a time, and we understand that we have to play with energy. Tonight we just played with a lot of energy. One guy steps down, another guy's got to step up."

Dunleavy filled that role very well for the Bulls on Saturday night.

Opening Tip: Bulls gear up for Thunder

December, 19, 2013
12/19/13
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HOUSTON -- As many married couples can attest to, the key to breaking out of a frustrating stretch in any relationship is better communication.

Taj Gibson and the Chicago Bulls are hoping the same applies to losing streaks as his team gets set to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night.

"We're going to have to talk a little bit better," Gibson said after Wednesday's loss to the Houston Rockets. "Our guards are going to have to fight through a lot of screens. It's going to be a battle. It's going to be won on the boards and talking on defense and helping each other and just being supportive of each other on the court.

"It seems like our defense kind of lacks [the] talking and support the way we normally have. If one man goes, the other man's going to step into his spot and help him out. I think we got to communicate a little bit better."

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau knows that his team must get ready for the Thunder's tempo. OKC certainly plays fast, just like the Rockets.

"You got guys that can break you down off the dribble," Thibodeau said. "They can turn you over. They get into the open floor; they can hurt you there. Durant is a tough guy to challenge because he can score so many different ways. They're playing very unselfishly. So they move the ball well.

"[Serge] Ibaka is a very underrated guy. They got guys that are doing their jobs. [Kendrick] Perkins is a tough guy inside. [Nick] Collison is a guy that just makes their team function well. [Reggie] Jackson is a rising young player that's terrific. Westbrook is Westbrook. Durant's Durant. Their record says what they are."

What's next: The Bulls take on the Thunder in Oklahoma City at 7 p.m. CT.

Asik and Brewer see old colleagues: The Bulls have plenty of connections to the Rockets. Former Bulls swingman Ronnie Brewer spent some time visiting with his old teammates. And ex-Bulls center Omer Asik warmly greeted Chicago reporters on his way out of the Toyota Center after Wednesday’s tilt.

Asik’s name has bounced around in a lot of trade speculation recently, and his former teammates are hoping he lands on his feet.

"I love Omer," said Bulls forward Carlos Boozer. "I don't know the whole situation, obviously not being here, but O's a great dude, a great friend. Was a phenomenal teammate for us. I just wish him the best. I don't know which direction they're going, if they're going to keep him or move him. I don't really have a place to talk about it. But just on a personal level for Omer, I wish the best for him. He's a good dude."

The last word: Boozer, before Wednesday morning's shootaround, on how he's trying to remain positive during the Bulls' recent skid:

"We're going to keep fighting no matter what. That's the makeup of our guys. Each guy in here has been through something where they had to work a little harder to have success. We've got a team full of guys like that. We'll fight through it and hopefully you can see the close games we're coming up short in right now turn into victories. We've had a lot of close losses, and hopefully we can get over the hump."

Bulls still seeking for answers on offense

December, 19, 2013
12/19/13
12:56
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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HOUSTON -- Joakim Noah summed up the state of the Chicago Bulls in one simple, revealing answer late Wednesday night after the Houston Rockets cruised by Noah & Co.

When asked what the Bulls' biggest issue is right now, the normally jovial center gave a blunt assessment of how far his team has fallen in recent weeks.

"I don't know," he said.

Noah's candor seems fitting for a team that has all kinds of different issues these days:

[+] EnlargeJoah Noah and Dwight Howard
Scott Halleran/Getty Images"The games keep coming, so nobody feels sorry for us and you can't feel sorry for yourself," Joakim Noah said after the Bulls were rolled in Houston. "We just got to play harder."

First and foremost, the Bulls continue having problems scoring. Since even before Derrick Rose went down, the Bulls' offense has looked lifeless on most nights. They don't have the talent to compete against upper-echelon teams, as was the case against the Rockets in Chicago's 15-point defeat. The problem for the Bulls is that their usual stout defense broke down in this one, as well. They were outscored 66-40 in the paint.

"We didn't take anything away," said a frustrated Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. "So they hurt us in the paint, they hurt us with the 3, they shot 53 percent so ... we got to straighten it out."

But what is going to get straightened out that much?

Kirk Hinrich, who missed his third straight game because of back stiffness, will make the Bulls a little better. But he doesn't have the ability to consistently create his own shot.

The problem for the Bulls is that they can see the writing on the wall. They are still playing hard, they just don't have the talent that they are used to having. No longer is energy and effort enough to get by on most nights.

"We're losing, so, mentally it's tough," Noah said. "When you lose, it's not fun. We just got to keep battling. Keep battling. The games keep coming, so nobody feels sorry for us and you can't feel sorry for yourself. We just got to play harder."

The Bulls can play a little harder, but the losing has started to take a toll on this team. They are starting to get even more frustrated by the fact they can't generate what they want offensively.

"We just got to get that taste of winning and that sense of going forward and going towards achieving something," said Bulls forward Taj Gibson. "In previous years and even in the beginning of the season, we had that spunk about us. We never panicked; we knew what it took to win games.

"Right now, I feel like we're still trying to search and trying to figure out our whole different concept of this whole different team that we have right now, as far as getting wins. We've been digging and we've been grinding and we've been right there a couple times. It's real deflating, but we just got to keep pushing."

The Bulls' attitude remains intact. They are still listening to Thibodeau and trying as best they can to stay in games. But for a team that has been so consistent and so successful over the past three seasons, the reality of each loss is taking a major toll on this proud group.

"This is obviously one of the toughest stretches that we've had," said Bulls forward Carlos Boozer. "We'll fight through it, man. Keep working hard. Hopefully, we'll start getting some wins here soon. We need it. We need wins bad."

The Bulls’ next opportunity for a victory comes Thursday night in Oklahoma City against the Thunder.

Bulls seek positivity after latest loss

December, 12, 2013
12/12/13
12:07
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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NEW YORK -- With the way the Chicago Bulls' season has gone over the past few weeks, Taj Gibson and his teammates have two choices with regard to how they could feel. They could cry because of all the heartbreak and injuries they continue to endure, or they could laugh at all the bad luck they've had and smile with the hope that better days are ahead.

[+] EnlargeMike Dunleavy
AP Photo/Kathy WillensDespite all the injuries and losses, the Bulls remain confident that things will turn around in the near future.
While the Bulls are understandably frustrated with the way they have been playing lately, especially after Wednesday night's 83-78 loss to the lowly New York Knicks -- their ninth in the past 11 games -- Gibson and most of his teammates chose the latter when it came to how they were handling their emotions.

"We just got to get guys back healthy, man," Gibson said. "Having [Luol Deng] out and Jimmy [Butler] out is real tough right now."

Then Gibson did something that has been rare to see around this team in recent weeks -- he actually cracked a smile.

"You can see I'm guarding 3's," he said. "I'm guarding twos, I'm even playing the three spot at times. It's kind of awkward, but we're just trying to find ways to win."

That's the thing about these Bulls. They are still broken-hearted over the fact Derrick Rose suffered another season-ending knee injury. They are still in an emotional rut because of the recent turn of events. But amid all of the bad things, they remain confident that at some point in the near future things will turn around. They came back from a 23-point deficit in Wednesday's game and almost pulled out a win. Coach Tom Thibodeau doesn't do moral victories, but he knows his team is getting closer to turning things around.

"The fight is good and we're capable of doing better," Thibodeau said. "The important thing is for us to understand that every game is winnable. It always comes back to the three things that you talk about to be in position to win. Your defense, your rebounding and low turnovers. If you do those three things you'll be in position to win."

(Read full post)

Opening Tip: Bulls happy for Korver

December, 9, 2013
12/09/13
10:00
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Kyle Korver was one of the most popular players in Chicago during his two years with the Bulls. So it comes as no surprise that his former coach and those associated with the franchise are happy he set a league record Friday, when he made a 3-pointer for the 90th consecutive game.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau couldn’t help but reminisce, for he coached the player who previously held the record, Dana Barros, when Thibs was an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1994-95 season.

[+] EnlargeKyle Korver
AP Photo/John BazemoreHawks swingman Kyle Korver, a former Bull, established an NBA record for most consecutive games making a 3-point shot.

"It's great," Thibodeau said of Korver's milestone. "Actually I coached Barros, too, so when you get to be as old as I am, you're around everyone. But it's great.

"You're happy for [Korver] because of the type of person that he is, the way he's worked at his career. It's not an accident; this guy, he puts a great amount of time into not only shooting, but to preparing himself to play in each and every game.

"He knows how to find openings. And he does everything. Everyone says he's not a great athlete; he's got great quickness because of his knowledge. And it doesn't take him long to get his shot off. So I'm happy for him."

Mike Dunleavy, the player who was brought in to fill the role that Korver had before he was dealt to the Hawks, agreed.

"It's pretty impressive," Dunleavy said. "To be able to pull that off, just to be able to shoot a 3 in every game, let alone make one, that's pretty incredible. There have been a lot of great shooters that come through this league and to make it 90 games.

"I'm sure he'll get to 100, that's quite an accomplishment."

Thibodeau credited Korver’s preparation.

"He's going to analyze how he gets to his shots," he said. "He does everything real hard.

"He uses the back pick to free himself up to get the body off on where he can get his shot off quickly. And if you turn your head at all he's going to sprint to an open area. "

What's next: The Bulls have a day of practice before facing off against the Milwaukee Bucks at home on Tuesday night.

Dealing with more injuries: Luol Deng (Achilles injury) is the latest Bull to sit out hurt, but Thibodeau keeps preaching to his team that it can overcome any obstacle in its path.

"I think mentally we're kind of prepared for it at this point," Dunleavy said. "In terms of rearranging the lineups and guys having to play different positions and things like that, yeah, that's an adjustment. But we're professionals. That's the way it is. You get paid to do that. We come out every night and compete.

"We have to regroup, get better and come back Tuesday."

 

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Derrick Rose
PTS AST STL MIN
15.9 4.3 0.5 31.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Noah 11.3
AssistsJ. Noah 5.4
StealsJ. Butler 1.9
BlocksJ. Noah 1.5