Taj Gibson agrees to $38M deal

CHICAGO -- Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson said Wednesday night that he agreed to a four-year, $38 million extension after the Bulls' 93-87 win against Sacramento.

"I looked at the numbers," Gibson said. "That's a lot of money. I can't really turn down that much money. Especially for the security, you never know what can happen all through the year."

Earlier in the day, Gibson had said he was not optimistic about getting an extension done before the midnight deadline. After the Bulls' win, Gibson explained his decision-making process.

"You just do want to see what else is out there, but then you look (and think) you don't want to be in some hellhole somewhere just chasing the bucks," Gibson said. "It's a great team here, family, organization. I just made a decision that would help me and my family.

"At the end of the day, I asked my agent, 'What do you think? Don't give me the bullcrap, just be real with me,' and he was real with me. He said, 'I don't want you to turn this down.' He said, 'I know we can probably get more this summer, but it's all about if you're happy or not.'

"And he said, 'I want you to take this; it's too much of a risk to go out there, you never know what can happen.' "

Bulls general manager Gar Forman and Gibson's agent, Mark Bartelstein, worked throughout the game to get the deal done. The negotiations went down to the final hour as Gibson met again with the Bulls' front office right after the game. He found out the deal was going to get completed before he had even taken a shower, and admitted feeling relieved.

"It's a load off my back now," he said. "I'm just focused back on basketball."

Gibson also acknowledged that the knee injury teammate Derrick Rose suffered last season factored heavily into his decision.

"That played on my mind," Gibson said. "The fact that it's even a longer season (than last year) and a lot of ups and downs knowing that any given moment I could pull a groin, I could hurt my knee, knock on wood, just having that security that (the contract) is going to be there no matter what, that was the main thing. I just didn't want to go out there and basically just get hurt."

Bartelstein said that by the time he and Forman hammered out the language of the contract, there were just minutes to spare to get it to the league office and beat the midnight ET deadline.

"Taj's eyes were literally on the clock and he kept saying, 'Are we there yet?' " Bartelstein said in a phone conversation early Thursday morning.

Bartelstein, like Gibson, ultimately decided that there was just too much money on the table to walk away.

"It's good for Taj," the veteran agent said. "Now he can just relax and go play basketball."

A league source said Gibson's deal is actually for $34 million guaranteed, and with different escalators, the amount could reach $39 million in the next four years.

The news of Gibson's agreement spread quickly in the locker room. Carlos Boozer screamed that Gibson was buying the whole team steaks. As Gibson entered the doorway into the shower area, Joakim Noah exclaimed, "WUUUUUU!" given that Gibson is affectionately known by his teammates as Tajy Wu. The joy over the news Gibson finally had gotten paid was palpable.

"I'm happy, man," Noah said. "That's my young boy. Taj is my young boy. ... I'm really happy. It's very well deserved. I see Taj's grind every day. And I know how much he fights every night to represent for the Bulls. That's just the icing on the cake. I've been through it so I know it's an unbelievable feeling. It's a very stressful situation, too, because a lot of people are telling you what you should do, what you shouldn't do.

"But at the end of the day, there's very few people that get it. It's a very unique situation to be in. But with that amount of money comes a lot of responsibility, but Taj is a hard worker and somebody who really deserves (the deal)."

Gibson did say that he would like to take on more responsibility in the form of eventually starting at forward. With that in mind, it is a near certainty that Boozer will be waived via the amnesty clause before his contract ends in three years.

Because Gibson turned 27 this summer and Boozer turns 31 this month and makes about $15 million this season, it's unlikely the Bulls will pay two power forwards a total of $25 million per season. The amnesty clause allows teams to cut one player and have that contract not count toward the salary cap; however, the team still must pay the contract.