Overshadowed by Derrick Rose‘s return was Taj Gibson‘s brilliant preseason debut Saturday night. Although, Rose’s return was the biggest storyline in the Chicago Bulls‘ 82-76 victory over the Indiana Pacers, Gibson was the most impressive player on the court. Gibson finished Saturday’s meeting with the Pacers with an impressive stat line of 18 points, 12 rebounds, one assist and three blocks.
Gibson’s strong preseason debut was both exciting as well as relieving for Bulls fans. Chicago rewarded Gibson for his strong 2012 postseason, in which he emerged as one of the key pieces of the Bulls future, by signing him to a four-year, $38 million contract extension last year. However, Gibson’s play last season did not live up to his lucrative new contract. Taj showed very little improvement from 2011-12 to 2012-13 after many people believed he was set to have a breakout year.
After having what many labeled as a disappointing season, it was very encouraging for Gibson to come out of the gate strong in Chicago’s preseason opener. It was reported that he worked very hard this summer putting on more muscle as well as working on improving his shooting range. Although Gibson did not show off his reportedly new three-point shot, he did lead the Bulls in nearly all statistical categories Saturday night. Not only did he record the most points, rebounds and blocks (tied with Nazr Mohammed), but he also logged the most minutes on the team, as he played 31 minutes off the bench.
How Gibson will back up his impressive preseason debut will definitely be something to watch for as the Bulls prepare to take on the Memphis Grizzlies Monday night. Starting center Joakim Noah is not expected to play which means that Gibson will likely see another solid chunk of playing time. Look for Gibson to take advantage of his large role in Monday’s game and have another strong performance.