CHICAGO – Taj Gibson was uncertain a deal would happen as the deadline drew near.
Resigned and disappointed as he dressed before the Bulls’ season opener at the United Center on Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings, Gibson believed he was set to become a restricted free agent next summer.
However, Gibson’s agent Mark Bartelstein negotiated with Bulls general manager Gar Forman throughout the game – a 93-87 Bulls win – trying to hammer out a deal before Wednesday’s 11 p.m. deadline to sign potential restricted free agents.
An hour before the deadline, Gibson and the Bulls finally reached an agreement on a contract extension. Gibson said his four-year deal is worth $38 million, which kicks in next season.
“Both sides just came together and got it done,” Gibson said. “That’s a lot of money. I want to be here, it’s a family. The security, you can’t turn that down.”
Gibson asked his agent to be honest about the situation and was told, “I don’t want you to turn this down.”
“[Bartelstein] said, ‘I know we could probably get more this summer,
but it’s all about if you’re happy or not,’” Gibson said. “And he said, ‘I want you to take this. It’s too much of a risk to go out there. You never know what could happen.’”
Although Gibson said the contract negotiations and the looming deadline did not weigh on him during Wednesday’s game, the lingering talks appeared to affect him. Gibson, the first reserve off the bench, scored only four points in nearly 20 minutes of action. He shot 2 for 6 but added five rebounds in the win.
“Taj has proven to be a key member of our team, and we are very pleased to have reached an agreement with him,” Forman said in a statement. “We look forward to him to continue to develop his game, and we are happy that Taj will be a Bull long term.”
Gibson’s double-double potential every game is one reason the Bulls felt re-signing him was a must. After losing Omer Asik in the offseason, thwarted from bringing him back once the Houston Rockets signed him to a back-loaded offer sheet, keeping Gibson became a priority. His energy and willingness to come off the bench is a necessity with the starting front court set.
While his perimeter shooting needs more consistency, locking down Gibson, 27, for four more years solidifies the Bulls’ core.
“Taj is a great player,” teammate Luol Deng said. “He’s a guy you don’t want to lose. I’m glad we’re keeping him. He works hard. Nothing is going to change. Definitely deserves it. I’m happy to see it. He’s such a nice guy.”