I'm trying not to hate Taj. I'm trying. But it is really hard. Its not his fault. He is just a symbol. Its like dating any girl with the same name as an ex-girlfriend you hated. Or turning the channel every time you see Tom Cruise's face. You want to give them a chance, I'd love to see Valkyrie for instance, but every time I see Tom Cruise's face I am reminded by everything I hate about him and what he represents. Every time I see Taj Gibson, I'm reminded of why Pax and Gar are terrible and why the Bulls have spent the last 10 years playing horrible basketball that is frankly tough to watch.
My dislike of Taj can be broken down into two categories - on the court and off the court. They bleed together a bit, but they represent two separate failings of this organization.
On the Court:
Taj Gibson does nothing the Bulls need. Seriously. If you were listing his strengths, of which there are few, the Bulls already have numerous players who perform his job better. Offensive rebounding? Noah, Deng and Tyrus are better. Shot blocking? Noah and Tyrus are better. Mid-range shoooting? Deng, Salmons, Miller, Hinrich, Tyrus and Rose are better. None of Taj Gibson's so called strengths are things the Bulls lack. In fact, he is at best the 3rd or 4th best player on our team at all of his "strengths." In truth, Taj Gibson should not be playing at all. Tyrus' injury means he needs to see some minutes (never 38). But when Tyrus comes back, Taj should get so many DNP-CDs, the Bulls decide to put that on the back of his jersey. And when he does, someone should break his kneecaps.
I guess Taj's great ability is to be where he suppose to be. A young Malik Allen. Well, that is just fine and dandy. I'm sure if you gave me the playbook and a month of practice I could be in the right place at the right time, just like VDN wants. But of course, just like Taj, I would do nothing once I got there. Who cares if he is a willing screener if they aren't effective? Who cares if he is in position to space the floor if he can never hit a wide open shot or make a play with the ball? Who cares if he plays great positional defense if that position defense yields 17pts and 9rebs in one half.
But Taj's on court production is just a symbol of the true disaster he represents off the court. A management so dumb, myopic, and bitter against its own players and fans that it would rather pay Taj $1 million a year to suck than deal with a "difficult" player.
Off the Court: Lets briefly re-examine how Taj Gibson became a bull.
The Trade of Thabo Seflosha - Before the trade deadline, the Bulls traded Thabo Sefolosha, current Thunder starter and owner of one of the most affordable contracts in basketball (!), to OKC for the pick formerly owned by the San Antonio Spurs.
At the time, from outside, the decision made some sense. Thabo was clearly number 4 in our wing pecking order behind Gordon, Hinrich and Salmons. You add in a presumed return from Luol Deng and its understandable that the Bulls would part ways with Thabo. From the outside, its makes some sense. From the outside....
But if you were fucking Gar or Pax, and you knew that JR had no intention of resigning Gordon, and you knew that you wanted Salmons to opt out of his contract at the end of this season, why in the fuck would you trade your young 2 guard for the #26 pick in a weak draft. How dumb are they? Did they not envision what the team would look like when they decided to let Gordon walk? Of course they did. They were going to focus on "defense." So it makes perfect sense that you would trade your best wing defender without ever giving him an opportunity to get consistent minutes. I mean, the team is going to focus on D. Why in the hell would you want Sefolosha? That guy is known for not being good on D.
The trade of Thabo Sefolosha represents a complete breakdown in organizational planning. Unless of course, the plan was to save a few hundred thousand dollars. They traded a player they could have used for a worse player who duplicates many of the skills already present on the team.
The Drafting of Taj - But you know what? Thabo Sefolosha is gone, and there is nothing that can be done about it. He is at best playing with a dominant wing scorer, and KD fits that bill. Oh well. Its now the day of the draft, and a decision needs to be made. The Bulls have already taken JJ, a 3/4 tweener with raw but self-evident skills.
Now, lets put on our GarPax hats again. Judging by the current roster make-up, and knowing full well that you are not going to resign Gordon (also knowing that you are going to go on national tv on draft night and lie about your efforts to resign him) you would think that you would address a need. What are the Bulls biggest needs? Well, on blogabull, the consensus seemed that the Bulls needed a banger to match up with the big guys (Blair, Mullens), a back-up point guard to some day replace Kirk (Lawson, Douglas, Collison) or a shooter/scorer to replace BG (Budinger, Thorton, Ellington). That seemed to be the consensus on the draft boards as well. Somehow, someway, the Bulls ended up with Taj Fucking Gibson. A guy who they could have gotten in the 2nd round for cash considerations or a future 2nd round pick or a box of donuts. And than Gar Forman goes on ESPN, and acts incredulous when asked why didn't the Bulls address a need with their 2nd pick. Address a need? We are planning on low-balling Gordon and laughing to the bank... not so fast.
Now, this isn't about Taj Gibson's skill level. That has already been covered. Taj may turn out to be better than Douglas, Thorton or Budinger, he may have longer, more productive career than Mullens or Blair - that doesn't matter. Its not about any particular player they could have drafted, Blair, Douglas or otherwise. Its about what they thought they needed to do with the #26 pick in the draft. Instead of addressing a on-court need, the Bulls thought it best to, as far as I can figure, threaten Tyrus by drafting his less athletic, less talented, older and more agreeable twin. Its like they went to Stewie Griffin and asked him to create a Bitch Tyrus (Family Guy reference). Do they follow this up by trading Tyrus? No, of course not. Bulls fan just have to sit and watch as a younger more productive player is slowly replaced by his retarded clone.
I don't care that Gar lied to the public (well I care a little because it shows a lack of backbone - have a plan and stick to it!). What I care about is that he couldn't evaluate the Bulls on-court needs and address them with real solutions. Was it really unfathomable that 07-08 Hinrich would come back? Was it really unbelievable that Salmons wouldn't repeat his career year of 08-09 or that Pargo would continue to suck? Was it hard to recognize that Miller had very little in the tank left or that the Bulls would spend 09-10 getting pushed around again? Its GarPax's fucking job to anticipate these things, and they failed miserably. Again. With the #26 pick in the draft the Bulls had the chance to address a basketball need. Instead, they drafted a mascot for our disappointment.
What it all means. Bulls management sucks. They really do. If they had any foresight at all they would never have traded Thabo without giving him a chance to see the court. You need foresight to build championships. A lack of foresight means you sign Ben Wallace to a huge long term deal on the downside of his career. It means you fail to draft a shooter to replace BG. It means you draft two players to replace Tyrus Thomas than fail to move Tyrus Thomas. A lack of foresight is the reason why the Bulls have been treading water for the last 5 years.
Bulls management is also petty. Don't sign a contract when we want, we pull it from the table even if ends up hurting us more than Gordon in the long run. The Bulls don't like Tyrus' attitude - well instead of working through it, they would rather draft two poorer players who need development and hope they can replace the player they haven't yet developed. The Bulls, on the basketball side, are run like a mom and pop operation or a family business. On the economic side, Reinsdorf could make Trump gush with envy.
And finally, Bulls management doesn't place a high enough priority on talent. I can't say that enough. The NBA is about developing and retaining talent. Guys bitch, guys complain, guys are sometimes overpaid - but that is life in the NBA. The most talented group of millionaires will when a championship this year. Not the nicest group. Not the group best at following orders. You don't trade the former #13 pick for the #26 pick to save a few hundred thousand dollars. Not if you want to win in the NBA. You don't value hard work and leadership over the ability to put the ball in the basket. This isn't a church youth group. You put up with JR Smith not because you want to give everyone a 2nd chance, but because one day he will be able to sink 8 3s in a quarter. You keep talent and if the coach can't make the talent play to a high level, you fire the coach. The Bulls have not done enough this season to put the most talent on the court possible. And every time I see Taj (and Hinrich and Pargo), I'm reminded of that.
I'm ready to bolt. I am. If Rose, Tyrus and Noah didn't still give me a bit of hope, I'd stop watching the Bulls altogether. Maybe 2010 fixes all this. But management's track record in the recent past is brutal. I have very little faith in their abilities to evaluate talent, retain talent, and fit talent on the court to produce the best results.