(MCT) — When Taj Gibson entered the locker room before Wednesday’s season opener, he glumly said he “highly doubted” he would change his mind and accept the Bulls’ offer of a four-year contract extension.
By night’s end, Gibson had tears in his eyes for different reasons — the celebratory kind.
With general manager Gar Forman, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and Mark Bartelstein, Gibson’s Chicago-based agent, working throughout the game, a deal just beat the 10:59 p.m. deadline.
“This is where I want to be,” Gibson said. “I feel relief.”
Gibson said the extension, which runs through the 2016-17 season, is for four years and $38 million. But two sources said numerous incentives would need to be reached for the package to hit that number. The base pay averages $8 million annually, sources said.
“Pax and Gar stressed they wanted me here a long time,” Gibson said. “It dawned on me I didn’t want to be a selfish player. I wanted to get what’s fair. It’s a lot of money. I can’t really turn it down, especially for the security. You never know what can happen during the year. At any given moment, I could pull a groin or hurt my knee.”
Gibson said Bartelstein told him he likely could earn more as a restricted free agent next summer “but you could end up playing in some hellhole.”
Teammates were overjoyed with Gibson’s news, hooting and hollering as he addressed reporters. Nate Robinson rifled through Gibson’s pockets, jokingly looking for money.
“It probably would have been on my mind if I turned it down,” Gibson said. “Now I get to compete on a solid team in a great organization.”
Captain Kirk: Kirk Hinrich said heavy legs contributed to him missing six of seven shots as he returned from the strained right groin that sidelined him for the final exhibition. Hinrich did have seven assists.
“His defense was terrific and he ran the team well,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “That is how I judge our point guards.”
Familiar face: Yes, that was Eddy Curry dropping seven points on the Lakers in 17 minutes for the Mavericks in their surprising victory Tuesday night.
Curry, the former Bull, had played just 24 games the previous four seasons.
“I’m happy for him,” Luol Deng said.
He and Hinrich are the only Bulls who played with Curry in Chicago.
Layups: Scottie Pippen, formerly a team ambassador, was appointed senior adviser to President and chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf. ... Deng, who avoided a fine for breaking out an Africa T-shirt during All-Star Game introductions last season, asked to be introduced from South Sudan instead of Duke this season. ... Thibodeau coached Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen as a Celtics assistant and said this on Garnett ignoring Allen during Tuesday’s Heat-Celtics game: “Interesting. Not surprising. Those guys have a long history. They won a championship together. I’m sure it will work out.” ... Nate Robinson guarded Isaiah Thomas and Aaron Brooks, both players he regularly plays with in summer workouts in Seattle.