Taj Gibson’s decision to sign with the Washington Wizards rather than return to the New York Knicks was met with surprising reactions. Not only because he left his hometown team but also his long-time coach Tom Thibodeau.
Gibson has played under Thibodeau for most of his 14-year NBA career. The only exception was when Thibodeau was out of the NBA, which happened twice — in Chicago and Minnesota. But every time Thibodeau returns to the league, he always finds a way to have a reunion with Gibson.
So, getting used to seeing Gibson go up against Thibodeau will take some time.
While the 14-year veteran big man admitted to New York Daily News that it was a hard decision since both the Wizards and the Knicks expressed interest in him, he ultimately made a basketball decision.
Gibson has a clearer pathway to minutes in Washington than in New York after the Knicks made Jericho Sims their third-string center. Rather than get stuck at the end of the Knicks bench, Gibson opted to back up the fragile Kristaps Porzingis and rising big man Daniel Gafford. Gibson could earn more floor time if Porzingis slides to power forward or he gets injured again. Porzingis has played more than 50 games only once in the last four seasons.
But aside from trying to extend his playing career, Gibson shared one big reason why he chose the Wizards.
“I’ve seen they have a young and talented team. It’s a sleeper team and I just want to be a part of something special,” Gibson said via NBC Sports Washington. “The NBA is full of ups and downs, but I wanted to go to a place where I can just put my veteran mentorship and whatever I can to add to the team.”
The Knicks are also trying to do something special with the addition of Jalen Brunson and possibly Donovan Mitchell. Still, the opportunity to be more than just a locker room guy has pushed Gibson to ultimately choose the Wizards.
Despite his age, Gibson is still a serviceable big man when given playing time. Last season, he was still productive off the bench and in spot minutes as a starter, averaging 4.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and nearly one block per game in 18.2 minutes over 52 games.
The Knicks will miss not only Gibson’s reliability but his positive influence in the locker room especially to starting center Mitchell Robinson, who just signed a four-year, $60 million deal to stay in New York.
Gibson is already looking forward to bringing that to the Wizards locker room.
“They have so many talented guys, I’m just a fan of all of them. I’m just lucky enough to be able to be able to say I can go into the gym and get better with these guys, build a bond with these guys. That’s my whole goal,” Gibson said.
Suffice it to say the Knicks’ loss is the Wizards’ gain.
Pending the result of their Mitchell pursuit, the Knicks still have two roster spots open. It will be tough to find a Gibson replacement.
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