Gibson still sees Bulls as contenders

June, 7, 2012
6/07/12
7:57
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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Taj GibsonAP Photo/Matt SlocumEven as the Bulls face an offseason of uncertainty, Taj Gibson is thinking big.

CHICAGO -- Taj Gibson knows the Bulls caught plenty of bad breaks during the postseason, but that hasn't swayed the way he feels about his team when it is fully healthy.

"I think so," he said Thursday afternoon. "I think we just had a rough end of the (season). We look at it, our first game of the playoffs was great. Guys were really (energized) we were running up and down, good defense, solid morals, and all throughout the years guys were just getting better and better and adjusting to different roles. It's just tough to have guys go down to injury like that, especially when I felt we could have won that series. We just have to get back and adjust and get ready for the next year. Just have the same morals. And I think our team has a lot to build on. We really didn't play our best basketball late and it showed."

While the Bulls, as a team, may not have played their best basketball of the season during their first-round playoff loss to the 76ers, Gibson probably did. With Derrick Rose (ACL) and Joakim Noah (ankle) out because of injuries, the third-year forward shined as the Bulls' emotional leader. He averaged almost 10 points and seven rebounds a game during the season and managed to fight off an ankle injury in Game 6. Obviously, it was an experience he wants to build on moving forward.

"Just how much confidence I played with in the last series," Gibson said, when asked what he'll take out of the playoff experience. "Just being aggressive, playing with that chip on your shoulder, going out there just laying it on the line. Just come in more determined because you never want to get sent home early, especially after being in the Eastern Conference finals, being another eight games away from going to the championship. It was tough to lose this year and get knocked out in six it's real aggravating to watch because you look at how Boston is doing and you look at how many games you won this year, it's frustrating, but you have come in next year and play with a much bigger chip on your shoulder."

In the short-term, Gibson will continue to rehab on the ankle as he prepares for Team USA select camp next month in Las Vegas. The 26-year-old was picked as part of a young group that will scrimmage against the national team as it gets set for the London Games.

"Derrick just told me it's basically like a regular NBA game," Gibson said. "Guys are going at each other, guys are competing. He just told me to stick to my morals and I should be fine. It's basically like guys are going at each other the whole week but I look forward to that. It's about getting better. They're going to take everything from the camp from the standpoint of just improving my game and making more room for improvement. That's the whole thing; after just sitting back at home and watching the playoffs, you just want to get better."

As he prepares for the camp, Gibson wants to continue to work on various aspects of his game and get better for the Bulls. He was happy with the way his exit interview went with Bulls' executives Gar Forman and John Paxson after the Game 6 loss last month.

"The exit meeting went great," Gibson said. "Unfortunately, it was earlier than expected, you expected to have an exit meeting sometime in June. But it went great. Better than what I expected. But you never know. You just have to get ready for next year."

Speaking of next year, Gibson wants to continue to work on his post game and gain even more confidence in it before training camp rolls around.

"My next thing I was planning to do for next year is probably just work on my post (game)," he said. "I got more comfortable in the post late in the playoffs, they were going to me a lot more, (I was) playing with a lot more efficiency as far as my jumper because I felt like my jumper kind of slipped away (compared to) where it was my second year. I felt I needed to work on it a little bit more. But I've been in the gym already with coach Ed Pinckney, just shooting a lot of 15 footers try to extend my range because most of the coaching staff feels they see me stepping out towards the three (point line) just letting it go. I've been shooting a couple threes every day."

Gibson wants to duplicate the training regimen that several other players used to get to the postseason this year.

"Trying to have that same kind of mindset the way Brandon Bass had, just shooting every day," Gibson continued. "Living in the gym. And I don't really take any days off because I know the summer league is coming, I know the USA trials (are coming). I'm trying to mostly play a lot of pickup ball, street ball, the same way (James) Harden and (Kevin) Durant played all year long, I'm going to do that all year long from coast to coast, from west to east, and just play basketball. I know my body needs that, I know my whole experience, as far as just basketball, needs that."

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jimmy Butler
PTS AST STL MIN
21.6 3.4 1.5 40.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 11.5
AssistsD. Rose 5.0
StealsJ. Butler 1.5
BlocksP. Gasol 2.0