Tom Thibodeau insists he views Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson as starters.
But Thibodeau, a good coach, won’t start all three. There’s no way that would work well for the Bulls.
So, one will remain starter in name only. In reality, he’ll be reserve.
And you can bet that will be Gibson.
Noah and Gasol started every game they played last season. They’re highly respected veterans and former All-Stars. Noah finished fourth in MVP voting last year, and Gasol scoffed the last time he came off the bench. These are not payers you pull from the starting lineup.
Gibson, on the other hand, came off the bench in 74 of his 82 games last season. Though he’s outplayed the typical reserve, he’s used to the role – which is why he’ll likely get stuck with it again.
Privately, Gibson isn’t too thrilled with the prospect of continuing to be a reserve, according to multiple people familiar with the situation, but the upbeat, team-first player values winning and chemistry too much to make it an issue or distraction.
Last year, Gibson excelled in training camp. The Bulls still brought him off the bench once the season began.
After the season, the Bulls reportedly told Gibson to prepare to start. He went out of his way to deny that report.
Maybe he cares about setting the record straight, but it’s more likely he wants to tow the company line.
Gibson has always played passionately, even though he’s outgrown his reserve role in Chicago. The Bulls amnestying Carlos Boozer opened the door for Gibson to start, but them signing Gasol closed it. Gibson has already proven his professionalism, and I doubt this latest setback will push him over the edge.
Eventually, Gibson might get a little more restless. But with three years remaining on his contract, that time isn’t now.
Thibodeau has a challenge in managing the minutes of his bigs, but managing Gibson’s ego likely won’t be part of it.