-- NEW YORK --? Chicago Bulls power forward Taj Gibson spent the first seven years of his NBA career playing alongside Derrick Rose, so he has some strong opinions on both the player, and the person, at the heart of some recent big headlines around the league.
"A lot of people misunderstand him because he's really one of the best, one of the greatest dudes I've ever been around," Gibson said after Thursday's shootaround, in advance of a matchup later that night against Rose and the New York Knicks. "Off the court, personally. On the court, he's a great guy. He's never been negative. He's never been as you quote, unquote say, a hater. He's just an awesome dude, man. For real."
Rose's future both in New York and in the league has been heavily discussed in recent days after the former All-Star missed Monday's game against the New Orleans Pelicans for personal reasons without telling his new team. Gibson, like many other Bulls employees, watched with some worry from afar.
"I was surprised just like anybody else," Gibson said. "It's really hard to go missing in the NBA because you got so many people that's going to check on you from agent, you got [team] staff, general managers, teammates, so it's really tough, but you never know. Things happen."
Gibson said he hasn't spoken to Rose since the unexcused absence, but he remains a vocal supporter of Rose's after all the ups and downs the former MVP has endured during his career.
"I just feel Derrick has grown into his own," Gibson said. "He doesn't really care what people think anymore. Some players tend to go out and just say things ... because they know what fans what to hear. He's coming at you real, telling you how he feels. Because that kid's been through a lot, hurting both knees, having the whole Chicago on his back from time to time. From heavy games to big games, I've been around him for a long time, and I'm proud of him. He's going to take some critical hits sometimes, but he's just being himself sometimes."
Gibson brushes off the notion that Rose could be viewed as not having a team-first mentality. Gibson, along with former Bull and current Knick? Joakim Noah, repeatedly supported Rose during his time in Chicago.
"He's about winning," Gibson said. But in this game, sometimes you have to be selfish. Sometimes you have to have that [type] of mentality once you have so much pressure put on you. But that's what makes great players great, when they're selfish and they make the big shot. Sometimes when you're selfish, you miss, have people pointing a lot of fingers at you. But if they were winning and they were making those right kind of shots, then they'll probably be praising him. But it's tit for tat. You never know. You'll have to roll with the punches."