This is a big week for Taj Gibson.
By Wednesday, the Bulls forward will begin his fourth season knowing whether he has secured an extension of his rookie contract. And Thursday, the Brooklyn Nets will christen the Barclays Center, built down the street from where Gibson grew up.
Talks between the Bulls and Mark Bartelstein, Gibson’s Chicago-based agent, continue. Sources said the roughly $8 million gap over 4 years isn’t atypical for this stage of negotiations.
Gibson has said he wants to remain with the Bulls long term. He got a reminder of what chasing the final dollar can do on Saturday, when the Thunder traded James Harden to the Rockets.
Harden, whom Gibson has known since they were teenagers and battled in Pac-10 showdowns between USC and Arizona State, reportedly turned down the Thunder’s $55 million offer because it fell $5 million below a maximum deal.
Houston can offer an extra year, making Harden’s extension more lucrative. But he’s also leaving a championship contender for a rebuilding situation.
“I know he didn’t really want to leave that team,” Gibson said. “But he has a new home in Houston. That’s the business side of basketball.
“I’m getting tired being asked questions about [my extension] and people worrying about it. I just want to get back to playing basketball, get focused on the season and helping this team win games.”
The Bulls want to avoid having Gibson become a restricted free agent next summer should they fail to reach an extension, particularly since they were burned when Omer Asik reached that status.
But they also have no plans to commit $10 million annually to Gibson, 27, when Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah all average north of that figure.
An NBA team landing in Gibson’s neighborhood was an even longer shot.
“It’s crazy to see this happening because there used to be drug dealers and all this stuff around where [Barclays Center] is when I grew up in the projects,” Gibson said. “My neighborhood, we never saw an NBA player. And now players are making appearances in the neighborhood. I love it.”