NEW YORK -- Chicago Bulls power forward Taj Gibson said Thursday, after the Bulls were swept by the New York Knicks in a home-and-home series, that he is "embarrassed" by his team's inconsistent performance.
"Hell yeah, I'm embarrassed," Gibson said after the Bulls' 106-94 defeat. "I take pride in wearing this jersey. I love wearing the Bulls jersey. Especially what we've been through, I take pride in playing for Chicago. When I wear that jersey, I try to go out there and play my heart out. And it's frustrating when we come up short, and we look at ourselves, we're losing to ... I don't want to criticize any[body], [but] trash teams. Everybody's in the NBA for a reason, but we're playing against teams that are not playing for anything, and we're just laying down. It feels like now we're a target. It feels like teams are not taking us serious.
"Teams are more eager to play us. [In years prior,] it was vice versa. They knew we were coming in to punch people in the face and keep playing. It's just, it's hard, man. It really eats me up inside. It's really hard to sleep at night knowing it's coming down to the wire, and our effort isn't there. It's really frustrating."
Gibson's emotion came on the heels of another dismal performance against the lowly Knicks. The Bulls now find themselves 1.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 11 regular-season games left.
"Tonight, I've never been so frustrated and mad before," Gibson said. "It was disappointing, man, just real disappointing. I'm just tired of having these same talks with [the media] every night. About how we got to do better. ... [Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg's] right. We got to look ourselves [in the mirror]. I look at myself in the mirror every night, and I try to do different things every night. Still got how many more games left? We've got 11 more games left. It's really do or die, and it's really frustrating. We got to want it. We got to want it. Sometimes I feel we want it, sometimes I don't know if we're kidding ourselves or not."
Hoiberg used a common refrain after the game, when he said his players need to look at themselves in the mirror and see what they can do to be better. The issue for the Bull -- not just on Thursday but throughout the season -- is that when times get tough, they usually fold. When asked why the mentality has changed, Gibson, who has spent his entire seven-year career with the Bulls, pointed to the new system in place under Hoiberg, the first-year coach he has defended throughout the season.
"It's a new system, a totally new system," Gibson said. "And we got a bunch of young guys, new guys, and it's just completely different personnel. But like he said, we've got to look ourselves in the mirror, everybody has to be accountable. Like Jimmy [Butler] said before, nobody cares if you're hurt, nobody's going to care about anything. The only thing people are going to worry about is if you're on that court and you're doing your job. So we just got to do our job."
Butler acknowledged the frustration in the Bulls' locker room.
"We have to be able to flip the switch," Butler said. "I think we want to find ourselves in the playoffs. Yeah, it's frustrating. Most definitely. The majority of us haven't been in this position since we've been in the league. We've always been at the top of the Eastern Conference. Right now, it's a fight. But when it's a fight, I think everybody has to man up. We have to stay in this thing together."
As Gibson closed his meeting with the media, he was asked how players can tune out the building sentiment among fans and media that the Bulls didn't have the same inconsistencies under former coach Tom Thibodeau. Throughout much of Thibodeau's tenure, the Bulls had a reputation as a hard-nosed team that always came ready to play, even if that feeling started to erode near the end of Thibodeau's final year on the bench.
“I don't even talk about that," Gibson said. "I say 'us' because at the end of the day, we have to go out there and play. He just gave orders, but at the end of the day, we had to go put blood, sweat and tears in it. When I go out there, I play hard for Fred. I got out there, I'm fighting hard for Fred. When I go out there and strap up, injured and everything, injured or not, I go out there, and I'm playing for Fred, and I'm playing for the Chicago Bulls, and I'm playing for the city.
"At times, I think we lose track of what we're playing for. We're not just playing for ourselves -- we're playing for the city of Chicago, and we're playing to wear that 'Bulls' across our chest. And it's frustrating because over the last couple years, we've just been one of those teams ... we took pride in everything we did. And we can't kid ourselves. We just got to do better. We got, what, 11 more games left? And I'm still going to be positive because all we ever talk about is negative, negativity in our press conference. ‘We need to do this, we're soft, we're this,' and at the end of the day everybody is a man, and everybody has to do better, including myself."