Gibson bids emotional farewell to Chicago Bulls

As Taj Gibson said goodbye Thursday and reflected on his eight years with the Chicago Bulls, this much was clear — his tribute video next season will be a good one.

Gibson epitomized the intensity the Bulls played with during the successful Tom Thibodeau era, and he grew into a respected locker-room leader who was invaluable these last two years as the team endured major personnel changes.

But Gibson was due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. So the Bulls traded him to Oklahoma City on Thursday, along with Doug McDermott. The Bulls will receive point guard Cameron Payne, power forward Joffrey Lauvergne and shooting guard Anthony Morrow.

Gibson talked about the toughest part of his day being the look on people’s faces as they said goodbye. A long line of fans, if that were possible, probably would have the same reaction.

“It was emotional. I don’t really see (John Paxson) get choked up and a little teary-eyed,” Gibson said. “But he gave me a long hug and I gotta lot of respect for Pax. He’s like a father figure, just a great guy.”

Gibson originally left the Advocate Center after being told of the trade, but he returned to speak to reporters. The last Bulls player to do that was Elton Brand when he was traded for Tyson Chandler on draft night.

Gibson said most of his teammates had left by the time the news got out. He went through the team’s full practice Thursday.

“We were joking about (the trade possibility),” Gibson said. “Nobody really took it seriously the whole practice. When (Jimmy Butler) heard the news, he texted me because everybody just left and didn’t know what was going to happen. He texted me that he loved me of course and he’d see me in the summer. Continue to keep doing well and go get the bags. That’s his words.”

Gibson spent much of his time talking about his fond memories of playing for the Bulls, from the fan support to going out and battling short-handed during the Thibodeau years. He said he still was laughing about a text sent by former teammate Joakim Noah.

“Just a lot of good fights, brotherly love with Joakim, Jimmy, Luol (Deng),” he said. “Just a lot of good times competing at a high level and winning. When you win here, it feels great. The city is behind you. It’s great.

“Just being able to put on a Bulls jersey and every day I came to the locker room and saw my name on the back of a Bulls jersey was a dream come true. Great city. A big-time city.”

Gibson said he may be open to returning to the Bulls as a free agent “at the right price,” but that figures to be a longshot. Gibson also mentioned interest in returning to the Bulls as a coach someday.

He also talked about the current state of the Bulls, saying he doesn’t necessarily think the team will slide without he and McDermott.

“I don’t really know if it’s going to weaken them. I think it’s going to help them grow,” Gibson said. “I hope it’s going to give them a lot more confidence, knowing they have some minutes that will be available.”

It’s not clear who will take over as the starting power forward. It could be Bobby Portis, Nikola Mirotic or eventually Lavergne.

Gibson also discussed the hidden benefit of Butler and Dwyane Wade calling out teammates for not caring enough whether the team won or lost last month.

“What they said was a little rough; we just wish they had said it in-house. But at the end of the day, people don’t understand, the next night there was about 10 guys in the gym working on their games because of that quote,” Gibson said. “Ever since then, the locker room has been great.”

Gibson leaves the Bulls ranked 10th all time in games played for the franchise, fifth in blocks and sixth in offensive rebounds.

He has become used to seeing his name in rumors but said he knew things were serious this time when his agent, Mark Bartelstein, called in the morning and said eight teams were interested in a trade.

“My agent and everybody knows how badly I wanted to stay here,” Gibson said. “But got to stay focused. Going to a new situation. New chapter.”

• Get the latest Bulls news via Twitter by following @McGrawDHBulls.

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Source: Sports

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