Knicks see Taj Gibson step up in preseason with Mitchell Robinson, Nerlens Noel sidelined

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Taj Gibson preseason cropped 10/13/2021
Taj Gibson preseason cropped 10/13/2021

The Knicks re-signed Taj Gibson for a reason. Wednesday's 108-100 preseason win over the Detroit Pistons was a latest example.

With Mitchell Robinson (foot soreness) and Nerlens Noel (left knee soreness) sidelined, Gibson started. Gibson scored 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting while grabbing nine rebounds and two assists in 31 minutes.

"It's great having Taj around," Robinson said Thursday. "It doesn't get better than Taj, man. We actually talk a lot, more than we did last year. For him to come over, and he still helps me out to this day -- especially because of what I went through with the foot and stuff like that, he kind of kept me focused and my mental straight. So it's like, hey, man, you've got to appreciate Taj."

Derrick Rose, whose played alongside Gibson as a member of the Chicago Bulls (2010-16) and Minnesota Timberwolves (2017-19), echoed Mitchell's sentiments.

"I'm proud of him," Rose said Wednesday. "Even though Taj is older than me, he'll be my rook forever. Seeing him adapt, seeing his game evolve to now -- he's shooting threes -- he's capable and that ain't the same Taj that I saw come in. So seeing him adapt, like I said, I'm proud of Taj, for sure. Even though this is a preseason game, this is where you work on your game and catch your rhythm. And to see him be capable out there is huge for our team."

Beyond Friday's preseason finale, a 7:30 p.m. tip-off with the Washington Wizards, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau delved deeper into how Gibson factors in.

"It's the best type of leadership you can have," Thibodeau said Wednesday. "His professionalism is off the charts. And that's why we felt he was so valuable and we wanted him back -- what he brought to the team last year. What you're seeing is what he's doing in the game, but he does the same thing in practice, in the locker room, brings great energy.

"And then whatever you ask him to do, he's ready to do. He understands what his job is and he goes out there and he gets it done. So you can start him, you can bring him off the bench, he can be situational and he embraces whatever you're asking him to do and he stars in that role. And so, I think that type of leadership is invaluable to the team."