Whether he was emulating Bernard King, scoring a team-high 20 points or bringing a smile to children's faces, the Christmas trip to Brooklyn was a success for Taj Gibson.
It started with a toy drive on Christmas Eve, co-hosted by Chicago Sky guard Epiphanny Prince, a fellow Brooklyn native who has known Gibson most of her life. Teammate Nazr Mohammed also attended.
Bulls game dayBulls vs. Dallas Mavericks at the United Center, 7 p.m. Saturday
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet / ESPN 1000-AM
Update: With a healthy Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks (16-13) are back in playoff contention after missing the postseason last year. Nowitzki, 35, is averaging 21.6 points. Former Bucks SG Monta Ellis is at 20.7 points, while shooting 46 percent from the field. Jose Calderon (12.4 ppg), Vince Carter (11.0) and Shawn Marion (10.7) round out the top scorers, while DeJuan Blair and Sam Dalembert are tied for the team lead in rebounds. Dallas has dropped three straight at the United Center.
Next: Memphis Grizzlies at the FedEx Forum, 7 p.m. Monday
-- Mike McGraw
Gibson didn't just show up and distribute. After the Bulls arrived in New York, he went to work collecting gifts.
"Christmas Eve, I was just running all over the place," Gibson said Friday at the Berto Center. "I went around to a whole bunch of GameStops. One GameStop I bought at least 10 Xboxes. I was looking for PlayStation 4s all over the city. I had two minivans and I bought a cab and we were just moving. We were just trying to let the kids have fun."
Gibson grew up in a housing project a few blocks north of where the Barclays Center, home of the Nets, now stands. So he could see himself in the kids who showed up at St. Stephens United Church of God on Christmas Eve.
"I can relate a lot. There were Christmases where we didn't have gifts," Gibson said. "I understood sometimes your family can't be able to put gifts under the tree. I never got mad at it. I understood. So I understood what the parents went through.
"That's why I went out there and tried to get as many good gifts as I can. I understand the economy is kind of rough, families are struggling and I just wanted to bring cheer to those families' lives. It's small, but hopefully it will have a big outcome."
Now in the first season of a four-year contract extension, Gibson has been all about greater output. The Brooklyn game was the fourth time he's scored 20 points this season. In the previous three years, he scored 20 points once.
Gibson has typically been the Bulls' defensive-minded power forward, who would platoon with Carlos Boozer, the more accomplished scorer. This year, Gibson has been ready to score. At times against Brooklyn on Wednesday, he was the go-to guy when the Bulls needed a basket.
"I always felt like I could score," Gibson said. "I was doing what the team needed me to do. Thibs always felt like he needed me to get more post touches previous years, but we always had such good teams. I was focused on whatever the team needed. I've just been working on my game."
Gibson has credited assistant coach Mike Wilhelm for helping his skill development over the summer. He also revealed a role model in King, the high-scoring forward who once dropped 60 points on Christmas Day while playing for the Knicks in 1984.
"He's from my neighborhood, one," Gibson said. "Plus he was a good dominant scorer in the low post. He started out, a lot of people didn't think he could score early in college and he just kept working his way.
"Coach Mike Wilhelm just kept giving me different film to watch -- lately, because he does that spin move I try to do under the basket a lot. I've just been taking small pieces and working on them and lately it's been working. It's been clicking and Thibs is calling plays for me."
On Friday, coach Tom Thibodeau talked about being able to use Gibson in more of an offensive role.
"It's a big plus to have guy you can throw the ball into the post to," Thibodeau said. "He's going to get a good shot up there, or he's also passing the ball very well out of the double team. It's creating easy offense because it's forcing the defense to react and collapse."
Thibodeau appreciates the gifts he's gotten from Gibson this season. Probably not as much as those kids in Brooklyn, but this has been a desperate holiday season for the Bulls.
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