Taj Gibson: Chicago Bulls Forward Continues To Display Team-First Attitude

Mar 17, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) is defended by Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) during the second half at the United Center. Chicago won 118-102. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 17, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) is defended by Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) during the second half at the United Center. Chicago won 118-102. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson continues to march forward despite a nagging hamstring injury.

The Chicago Bulls have had their fair share of difficulties during a season that has been marred with inconsistent play and injuries. As a result of these factors, the team finds itself battling just to remain in playoff contention.

Despite the negatives, there have been a few bright spots to speak on, and one of those silver linings is reserve forward Taj Gibson. One of the reasons why Gibson is a fan favorite is because of his willingness to go out and give an all-out effort each night while remaining the consummate professional on and off the court.

Following a rookie season in which he started 70 games for the Bulls and averaged 9.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest, Gibson was moved to the bench the following season when the Bulls acquired Carlos Boozer. Then, after the 2013-14 campaign — a season in which he averaged 13.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per outing — Gibson was promised a spot in the starting lineup during the offseason.

Unfortunately, that promise never came to fruition, as the Bulls acquired Pau Gasol, forcing Gibson to resume his role as a defensive anchor with the second unit. Furthermore, after Fred Hoiberg relegated Joakim Noah to the bench, he could have opted to insert Gibson into the starting lineup so that the team would not lose much from a defensive standpoint.

Instead, second-year forward Nikola Mirotic was given the green light. To be honest, any of these scenarios could have had a negative impact on any player, and rightfully so. Gibson is a different breed though, and despite the multiple demotions, he continues to take his role in stride.

Although the aforementioned injury factor has decimated this Bulls team once again, Gibson has risen to the occasion. In an outing against the Toronto Raptors on Mar. 14, Gibson scored 13 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and handed out three assists.

The significance of his performance from that contest is that six of his points and seven of his rebounds came in the fourth quarter when the Raptors were making a late charge. It is fair to say that without his key baskets, the Bulls would have lost that game.

"“I understand we have a short window,” Gibson said, via NBA.com. “I’m trying to push guys as hard as I can, be a motivating guy, be a leader, try to talk, try to do everything because I understand we have a lot of guys out. We have a lot of young guys looking to us, just trying to push through for them.”"

After leaving in the second quarter of Chicago’s 117-96 loss to the Washington Wizards with a hamstring injury, it appeared that the Bulls’ frontcourt was going to take yet another hit. However, Gibson declared himself well enough to play against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night.

What were the results?

Gibson posted a stat line that included 12 points on 6-for-10 shooting, six rebounds, two blocks and two assists in 27 minutes of action. Even more important, Gibson limited Brook Lopez — a player who is averaging 20.6 points per contest — to just nine points and three rebounds.

On the season, Gibson is averaging 8.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per contest. While those somewhat modest numbers may be overlooked by the casual observer, Gibson’s contributions are not taken for granted by his teammates.

"“Taj knows how important he is to this team, whether he’s starting or coming off the bench,’’ Jimmy Butler said via the Chicago Sun-Times. “That’s big for us because when you see a guy doing that, that just shows how tough he is. If you can go then you go. If you can’t you can’t. But Taj is like, ‘Yo, I’m going.’ Respect him.”"

Gibson has not recorded a 20-point game this season, nor does he make the kind of plays that will regularly appear on the nightly sports shows. What Gibson does provide is a stabling force, a guy who is willing to step in and play at any position when his number is called.

More hoops habit: NBA: Ranking The League's Top 23-Year-Olds

That being said, Gibson’s work ethic and team-first attitude are just a couple of the reasons why he has become a mainstay with the franchise in spite of his name being mentioned in trade rumors over the past few seasons. Should the Bulls make it to the postseason, Gibson should be recognized for toughing it out during a stretch when several players are on the shelf with injuries.