With free agency fizzling for the Chicago Bulls, it's time for management to get off its collective butt, do something productive and lock up some real talent. Here's one deal that should be a no-brainer: Signing fan favorite Taj Gibson to a long-term contract.
According to a recent report from CSN-Chicago, signing Gibson to an extension is a top priority (duh) for the Bulls, who'd like to have a deal in place before the season starts (another duh). I'm confident I speak for all in saying GET IT DONE NOW.
Gibson, now on the final year of his rookie contract, is ready for a break-out season. He posted career highs per 36 in points (13.6) and blocks (2.3) last season, and with a respectable 16.9 PER. He also showed significant improvement on offense, the weakest area of his game, by shooting 49.5 percent from the floor for, you guessed it, yet another career high.
The only "problem" with Gibson as far as this fan is concerned is a lack of playing time. He played just 20:23 minutes a game last season (even fewer in the playoffs), down from 26 minutes his rookie year when he started, and down slightly from 2011-12. I'm not saying he should start over Carlos Boozer, as many fans do, but I'm not sure how a guy with Gibson's skill and impact gets declining minutes, especially in the playoffs.
In locking up Gibson, the Bulls would be securing a crucial piece of the future - he's a player, like Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, that can be built around. He could easily start for Boozer if, as is widely assumed, Boozer is amnestied, and in the meantime can continue to provide valuable production and leadership off the bench.
Hopefully, GarPaxDorf learned a lesson with Omer Asik and will get Gibson's deal done pronto.
The Bulls signed Asik to just a two-year deal when he came over from Turkey, and subsequently passed on opportunities to trade him for O.J. Mayo then Courtney Lee. Problem is, the Bulls never got around to an extension (oops), thus opening the door for Houston's absurd offer sheet. In short, the Bulls let a valuable asset slip away for absolutely nothing in return.
I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in saying that Taj Gibson is one of my favorite players. He works hard, plays exceptional defense, and brings positive energy and emotion to the game. And we all love his crowd-pleasing dunks - posterizing Dwayne Wade, the flying one-hander, blowing by Chris Bosh. Fans like me, already miffed by the write-off of the 2012-13 season, want and expect Taj to be taken care of.
The bottom line is simple: Gibson has immense value to the Bulls and prominently figures into the team's future plans, and it would be certifiably insane for management run the same risk that it did with Asik. GarPaxDorf say they want to make basketball decisions. Well, gentlemen, here's a wonderful opportunity to do just that. Now show Taj the money.
What I did this summer: Gibson was busy earlier this summer playing with the USA Select team - that's the guys who scrimmage and practice against the Team USA Olympic squad. Here's a great story on Taj's experiences with the team and his thoughts on the future by CSN-Chicago's Aggrey Sam.
Sources: Taj Gibson player profile, Yahoo! Sports, Taj Gibson player profile, BasketballReference.com; Gibson in elite company in Vegas, ESPN; Gibson's USA Basketball experience motivates him moving forward, CSN-Chicago; Chicago Bulls look to re-sign Taj Gibson long-term, SI.com; Report: Bulls to start contract extension talks with Taj Gibson; NBCSports.com; Midday Stampede: Bulls To Make Taj Gibson a Priority NBC Chicago.
YCN featured sports contributor Steve Merritt is - for better or worse - a lifelong Chicago Bulls, Bears and Cubs fan. He's followed the Bulls since 1969, when he tuned in after bedtime on a cheap dime store radio tucked under his pillow.
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