Bulls: Taj Gibson played through ligament tear, nearing return


Deerfield— Taj Gibson didn’t perform with his usual spunk during the Bulls’ second-round playoff loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, which could partly be attributed to the ankle issues he’s endured over the years.

He underwent ankle surgery in June before the draft, but when the doctors went in they discovered he had a torn ligament Gibson merely played through.

“I didn’t know I could play with that much pain but I just tried to help my team win,” Gibson said at his City Basketball ProCamp Saturday morning. “I think it was a good thing for me to do the surgery. I’ve never been hurt this much. It was good for my career and for myself.”

Gibson’s 2014-15 was filled with nicks and bruises, but he still shot a career-high 50 percent from the field while averaging double-figures for the second time in his six-year career (10.3 points) along with 6.4 rebounds.

His production slowed in the postseason but he was still a net-positive on the floor despite the injury.

“We didn’t know it was a torn ligament. It was on the completely opposite side of the foot,” Gibson said. “When he finally went in during surgery, he was astounded how I was able to still play. He said he never knew anybody who could play through so much pain. I just thought it was normal. He was surprised I was even able to run or lift off it. That’s how bad it was.”

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Where he’ll start this season remains to be seen due to recovery from the injury, as the Bulls want him to take his time before coming back to full speed. After all, Gibson’s reached veteran status and many 30-year olds don’t mind skipping the early grind of training camp.

But with a chance to put an early stamp on a new coaching regime, he’s itching to get back, running, cutting and doing one-on-one drills. The four-month recovery prognosis means he shouldn’t be back until mid-October, as the eight-game preseason tips off.

“I’m going to try to go as hard as I can,” Gibson said. “I’ve been feeling great. But Coach Fred and everybody just wants me to take it slow. They told me to keep working. They understand how hard I’ve been working on my rehab and staying in tune with the team and coaching staff.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg was familiar with Gibson even before Gibson was drafted by the Bulls in 2009, going as far as giving him advice on free throw shooting when Hoiberg was a member of the Timberwolves’ front office.

“He was one of the guys I was always eager to know,” Gibson said. “He would give me feedback on my play. It was great. He fits my style of basketball. We talked over the summer and he was constantly telling me how much I left on the table and how my style of basketball lets me play.”

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The biggest change from Hoiberg and former coach Tom Thibodeau—aside from the obvious lack of friction with the front office—is Hoiberg’s offensive philosophy, which isn’t as restrictive and more player-controlled. Gibson, like every other Bull on the roster, feels a sense of upcoming freedom.

“Not taking anything away from Thibs and the way we played. He was a great coach, taught me a lot,” Gibson said. “(But) moving from that kind of offense to this kind of offense is going to be exciting. I really feel like I was used to running in my California days. Coach Fred and Coach (Tim) Floyd (Former Bulls coach) adopted the kind of system I liked to play.”

Now it’s just a matter of when Gibson will be back on the floor.

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