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Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Bulls preparing for life during the lockout

By Nick Friedell

Taj Gibson
Taj Gibson took major strides last season, and he's talking to Tom Thibodeau about how to improve.
CHICAGO -- Each member of the Bulls organization knows their world is going to feel a little differently on Friday morning, and they're all planning accordingly. The dreaded NBA lockout is expected to hit on Friday, which means that players cannot have contact with anyone within the organization, a fact that they've discussed among themselves since the season ended last month.

That's why several players have already discussed plans to work out with each other over the next few months, at least until the labor situation is figured out.

"Yeah, we talked about it," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said recently on the "Waddle and Silvy" show on ESPN 1000. "I talked about it with Carlos Boozer], I'm heading down to Miami for a little to work out with him. I talked about it with Keith Bogans [last Thursday] night. One thing [is] my team has been in contact with each other. I see Luol [Deng] and I talk to Luol a lot, but it's really gonna come down to us staying in contact with each other and work something out."

New Bulls draft pick Jimmy Butler reiterated the same sentiment during his introductory press conference on Monday afternoon.

"I just expect to work out," Butler said, while discussing the possibility of a work stoppage. "Maybe at IMG [sports agency]. I've been talking with [former Marquette teammates] Wes [Matthews] and maybe him and Lazar [Hayward], maybe out in LA. Maybe continue to get better every day. Never take a day off, like I always say, and when the NBA's here, I have to be ready."

Like Gibson, Butler mentioned how important he thought it would be to work out and learn from his teammates during this time. That was undoubtedly music to the ears of Bulls GM Gar Forman. While Forman didn't want to discuss specifics regarding the potential lockout, he did acknowledge that the Bulls' roster is made up with the types of players who would go out of their way to work out with each other if they are locked out of the Berto Center.

"We like our group," Forman said. "And I think we've got a close knit group. And we've got guys that genuinely like each other and spend time with each other. We've also got guys that are workers. And we've already had a number of guys in the Berto Center that have started their offseason conditioning and skill work and those type of things. We've got guys that are motivated to get better and, I think, guys that it hurt when we lost that last series [to Miami in the Eastern Conference finals]. And I think we'll have a group that will be ready to go when we get back together."

That's the message Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau is obviously trying to impart to his players as well.

"Thibs has been having a lot of meetings," Gibson said. "He's been bringing a lot of guys in. Me and Omer Asik] have been down there a lot, especially working out with Thibs and the other [members of the] coaching staff. You never know if there's gonna be a lockout, but we just wanted a chance to get closer to the coaching staff and learn some more."

For Gibson, each moment with Thibodeau and his staff is important to him. He knows the coach wants him to take another step in his game next season and he realizes he needs to soak up all the time he can with him before Friday.

"I had a good year, that's what [Thibodeau] said," Gibson recalled of his meeting. "He told me he was proud of me. He told me, 'You could take it to the next level.' He said, 'This summer, I want you to work on your game a little harder and just think of what it felt like to get to the Eastern Conference finals and lose. You don't wanna feel that feeling again and then our team will be better.' We will be more experienced, and he just said he wants me to be more of a leader next year seeing how last year was so much of a learning process. But he said next year he expects guys to understand what they have to do on the court and be role models and leaders."

Given the type of character the Bulls have, that shouldn't be a major issue. The bigger issue for the players and coaches will be how they're going to survive the next few months without seeing each other almost every day.