- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson has been dealing with so many nagging injuries over his brief two year NBA career that even he has to shake his head sometimes. After dealing with plantar fasciitis throughout last season, and sitting out most of the summer to get that injury corrected, the 25-year-old has battled through a deep tissue bone bruise, a sprained ankle, and most recently, an injured right big toe.
The latest injury, which he suffered on March 18 against the Indiana Pacers, has caused Gibson to wear extra large shoes to give the toe more room to operate. Before the injury he was wearing size 15½ shoes. Now he must get the toe taped before each game and wear size 18 shoes.
"I hate it," he said after Monday morning's shootaround. "I hate it. Because it's kind of hard; with [coach Tom Thibodeau's] philosophy, he allows me to switch on multiple positions and it's been kind of rough because the shoe is so big, it has so much room in the front so I don't really know where to get my tracking, or where to get my steps in balance at, so at times it's rough. The tape job is tough, because it's still painful. Just figure out ways to get around [the injuries]."
That's been his motto since he got to the league. After playing in all 82 regular season games last year, Gibson has missed just two this season despite the many issues.
"I'm a team player," he said. "I'm there for my teammates. I'm there to show that there's no excuses. No matter what I do I'm going to put my best effort forward. It's going to take a lot to keep me out of the game. It's my dream to play in the NBA. I'm going to take advantage of every single minute, every single day."
That's the type of attitude that Thibodeau has come to appreciate from the USC alum.
"He's been great," Thibodeau said. "He played well initially when he was starting and then I think he went through an adjustment [when] he had an injury, and going to the bench, but I think he's figured that out and he's played terrific. You couldn't ask for anything more. His energy's great. His defense is off the charts. And I think he's gotten more comfortable offensively. Guys are nicked up right now, but he doesn't show it when he plays. He plays tough every night and we need that."
Gibson has taken a simple philosophy when it comes to dealing with all the pain.
"Just take it one day at a time," he said. "Go get treatment on days off, get a massage. I've just been watching a lot of TV, listening to old veterans, what they do. I even watched an old football clip with Michael Strahan. He said he would lift, not a lot, but some. Get something in, get treatment. And I look at what Kurt [Thomas] does. [He] gets treatment on days off, gets lifts in. I've been doing that consistently [and] eating healthy."
No matter what he does, and no matter what injury comes next, expect Gibson to take it all in stride. He can't help but chuckle when it comes to all the bumps and bruises he has had to overcome.
"Even when they taped me up and gave me that size 18 shoe I was like, 'Are you kidding me? I wear a 15½. What am I doing with a [size] 18 shoe?'" he said. "This isn't football where they just stand there. I got to chase people around and run and jump. But I've been accepting to it, and the last couple games have been OK."
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.
2hMichael C. Wright