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updated: 10/29/2012 12:04 AM

How Harden trade affects Bulls' Gibson

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  • Taj Gibson

      Taj Gibson

  • James Harden was traded last week from the Western Conference champion Thunder to the rebuilding Rockets.

      James Harden was traded last week from the Western Conference champion Thunder to the rebuilding Rockets.
    Associated Press

 
 

Taj Gibson has known James Harden since the two were teenagers in Southern California.

They played against each other in the Pac-10 and were chosen on opposite ends of the draft's first round in 2009.

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They both were hoping to sign contract extensions by Oct. 31 to remain with their current teams, but that's where the stories split.

Harden couldn't come to an agreement with Oklahoma City and was traded to Houston on Saturday, along with several other players, for Kevin Martin, rookie Jeremy Lamb and some draft picks.

"I've known James since he was 14, 15 playing in high school out in California," Gibson said Sunday at the Berto Center. "To see his evolution of being a good player and see him going through these things, the same things I'm going through, is kind of mind-blowing."

Even if Gibson doesn't agree to an extension by Wednesday, it's probably safe to say the Bulls have no plans to trade him. He simply will become a restricted free agent next summer, and the Bulls will have a chance to match any offer.

Watching Harden leave last year's Western Conference champion to join the rebuilding Rockets, Gibson focused on the positive.

"I was happy for him," Gibson said. "It's rough. That's the business part. I know he really didn't want to leave that (Thunder) team, but he's got a new home in Houston and that's the business side of basketball."

Harden leaving the Thunder seemed inevitable. Oklahoma City already has $54 million committed to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins for the 2013-14 season.

The NBA's new collective-bargaining agreement includes much more severe penalties for teams paying the luxury tax. This year teams simply pay a dollar-for-dollar tax if their payroll exceeds the tax threshold of $70.3 million.

Starting in 2013-14, the tax rate grows to $1.50 for teams above the threshold by up to $5 million, $1.75 for $5 million to $10 million, and so on.

If a team has paid the tax in three of the previous four years, it pays a "repeater" rate of $2.50 for every dollar above the threshold from 0 to $5 million.

So it's easy to see why the Bulls didn't match Houston's giant offer for Omer Asik and replaced most of the Bench Mob with cheaper alternatives.

If the Bulls do sign Gibson to a contract extension, many believe the team will then use the amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer, removing his hefty salary from cap and tax considerations.

For the time being, Gibson will be happy when Wednesday rolls around and the uncertainty ends one way or another.

"I'm just getting tired of being asked questions about it, people worrying about it," he said. "I just want to get back to playing basketball and focus on the season and helping this team win games."

Nazr's eye on OKC:

The James Harden trade hit home, too, for Bulls center Nazr Muhammed, who spent the past two seasons with Oklahoma City.

"It was a lot of fun," he said Sunday at the Berto Center. "When you get a group of 22- and 23-year-olds, who understand the league and play hard and sacrifice on the court, are like brothers off the court, hang out with each other. I mean, it was a great experience.

"I know James is going to miss it, and I know they're going to miss James. But it's part of the business. It's not the last time we're going to see it. It's not the first time we have seen it."

Asked if Harden might have preferred to play in a larger market, Muhammed disagreed.

"The superstars, they probably figure more toward markets and where can I kind of get my name out," he said. "Most of the other guys, we just want to go out, make as much as we can for our family and get a chance to play."

Hinrich status on hold:

The Bulls didn't conduct a full practice Sunday. Kirk Hinrich shot around with everyone else, but there was no real update on his groin injury. His status for Wednesday's season opener against Sacramento is unknown.

"He's improving," coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Hinrich sat out the second half of Tuesday's game against Oklahoma City and all of Friday's preseason finale against Indiana.

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