Tom Thibodeau endorses Taj Gibson for Sixth Man of the Year consideration

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Taj Gibson is one of the NBA’s top reserves.

He’s a first-rate defender, solid rebounder and generally effective scorer.

But does he deserve Sixth Man of the Year consideration? Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is obviously biased, but he’s campaigning for his backup big.

Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times:

Lakers swingman Nick Young, who was averaging 16.7 points off the bench, is a leading contender for the Sixth Man Award and didn’t hurt his credentials with 17 points in the first half Monday against the Bulls. But reserve big man Taj Gibson, Young’s former teammate at USC, deserves consideration, coach Tom Thibodeau said.

‘‘Taj, to me, is a starter,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He’s had a fantastic year. He can score, he defends, can play multiple positions. Whatever you ask him to do, he does.’’

Gibson finished fifth in Sixth Man of the Year voting in 2012, but he definitely won’t win the award this year.

Despite everything he does well – Chicago allows 4.9 fewer points per 100 possessions with Gibson on the floor vs. him off – his contributions are not obvious enough to sway voters.

Gibson averages 11.8 points per game, 13th among players eligible for Sixth Man of the Year – all but eliminating him from winning the award.

Half of all Sixth Man of the Year winners have led eligible players* in scoring. Six of the last seven winners have been the top-scoring reserve, and the lone exception, Lamar Odom in 2011, ranked second (behind Jason Terry).

Gibson would be the lowest-ranking scorer to win the award since Anthony Mason (21st in 1995). Bill Walton (63rd in 1986) and Bobby Jones (33rd in 1983) are the only other players to win while ranking lower in scoring.

*Players who’ve come off the bench in more games than they started

Here’s how each Sixth Man of the Year winner, and Gibson this year, ranked in scoring among eligible players:

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Of course, there’s nothing wrong with leading reserves in scoring, as Jamal Crawford (17.3 points per game) is doing this season. I just think voters should consider other factors, too.

That doesn’t mean Gibson should win the award, either. In fact, Manu Ginobili (ninth at 12.7 points per game) would be my mid-season pick. He’s meshed perfectly with the Spurs, helping them on both ends of the floor.

Hopefully, Thibodeau will open eyes about how to assess sixth men, but that still doesn’t mean Gibson would be the primary beneficiary. This year, it might be Ginobili whose beneath-the-radar contributions are most valuable.

But we’d all be smarter if we listen to at least why Thibodeau is stumping for Gibson.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.