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Sunday, October 3, 2010
Gibson a capable replacement for Boozer

By Nick Friedell

Taj Gibson
Taj Gibson started 70 games for the Bulls as a rookie last season.
DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Where exactly do the Chicago Bulls go from here now that Carlos Boozer is probably going to be out for two months with a broken hand?

Surprisingly, at least to those who haven't followed the Bulls much over the past year, that answer is easy.

It's Taj Gibson time once again.

Gibson, the 25-year-old second-year forward from USC, shouldn't have any problem filling in for Boozer. He started 70 games last season and became a favorite of former Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro because of his defense-first mentality and positive attitude.

There's no question the Bulls will miss Boozer's presence in the post -- he would have given the team a consistent low-post scorer that they haven't had in years -- but Gibson will be steady in his absence. He averaged 9 points and 7.5 rebounds last season and did so while battling plantar fasciitis throughout most of the year.

After rehabbing all summer, he says he feels great once again and his offensive numbers should get a boost because he's been religiously working on his mid-range jumper during the offseason.

Boozer's injury also puts even more of a spotlight on Joakim Noah. He will be asked, as he was last season, to snare every rebound that comes anywhere close to him. His role on defense won't change much, and his continuity with Gibson, having already played with him for a season, is only going to help.

But Boozer's presence was to supposed to take some of the pressure off Noah down low and give him more of a breather on the offensive end. With Boozer out, the pressure will be on Noah to prove that all the time he spent in the gym this summer working on his post moves pays off over the first month of the season.

Aside from Noah and Gibson, expect new coach Tom Thibodeau to shuffle the lineups even more and give Kurt Thomas a few more minutes a game, at least in the beginning. The Bulls are keeping a close eye on Noah's feet, given his well-documented problems with plantar fasciitis last season, and it's hard to imagine a scenario where he starts the season averaging close to 40 minutes a game. Thibodeau is probably going to use Thomas, and possibly rookie Omer Asik, to spell Noah and Gibson.

As Thibodeau noted Sunday, he may even use Luol Deng at power forward if he is looking to use a smaller lineup during some points of certain games.

While you try to digest all the possible scenarios, there are two main issues that Bulls fans need to keep in mind.

1. Any fan still holding out hope that the Bulls will deal for Carmelo Anthony for Noah, Deng and either Gibson or James Johnson probably needs to put those dreams to bed.

The Bulls will be leaning on those players more than ever right now and it would be foolish to trade Noah with Boozer unavailable for eight weeks, and maybe longer, once he rehabs his way to 100 percent health.

2. The Bulls are lucky to have Gibson. He is a well-liked member of the team who is going to have no problem sliding into Boozer's place for the foreseeable future. He shouldn't have any issue with Thibodeau's system and will continue to be a fan favorite because of his hard-nosed style.

The bottom line is that while Boozer's injury will be hard to overcome, especially given all the expectations placed upon this team before the season, the Bulls don't have as big of an issue as many think. This injury doesn't force the Bulls to go out and make another roster move -- they already have the right man in place for the job.