By Sam Zuba-
UNITED CENTER (CBS) Carlos Boozer may have said it best when he yelled, “Steaks are on Taj, tonight!”
Boozer’s exclamation came in the wake of a last-minute deal agreed upon by the Bulls and fourth-year forward Taj Gibson on a four-year extension worth $38 million that kicks in after this season.
The two sides had until 10:59 p.m. to reach a new deal, or Gibson would have become a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
Gibson announced the deal in front of his locker at 10:11 p.m.
“Relief,” Gibson said with a smile on his face when asked how he felt. “I feel much better that we got a win today. Just having (Gar Forman) and (John Paxson) come in here and say that we want you here for a long time – it brought tears to my eyes because I want to be here for a long time. I want to retire here.”
Gibson’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, negotiated with Forman and Paxson throughout the Bulls’ 93-87 season-opening win over the Kings.
At the game’s conclusion, a deal had yet to be agreed upon, but a last-minute visit from Forman and Paxson convinced the 27-year-old Gibson that now was the time to sign.
“As soon as I got iced, they were waiting for me,” Gibson said. “We had a last-second chat and they just really stressed how much we needed to get this done. It’s a load off my back. Now, I can just focus on basketball.”
Before the game, though, things looked bleak, with both side still millions of miles – and dollars – apart. When asked if he thought a deal would get done, Gibson said it was highly doubtful.
So, what changed?
“I just thought about it,” Gibson said. “It was really just Paxson and Gar stressing to me that they really wanted me to be here for a long time. It kinda dawned on me. I didn’t want to be a selfish player – I just wanted to get what’s fair. I looked at the numbers and that’s a lot of money. I can’t really turn down that much money, especially for the security (it brings.) You never know what could happen throughout the year.”
Joakim Noah, who put up 23 points and 10 rebounds in his season debut, couldn’t have been happier for his friend and teammate.
“That’s my young boy,” Noah said. “He’s my rookie. He’s my rookie in this life and the next life.
“I see Taj’s grind every day. To see how much he fights every night for the Bulls, (this contract is) icing on the cake.”
If anyone knows what Gibson was going through, it’s Noah. After all, the Bulls’ center was in a similar situation after the 2010 season – right before he signed his five-year, $60 million extension to remain in Chicago.
“(It’s) very stressful,” Noah explained. “A lot of people are telling you what you should do and what you shouldn’t do.”
As for Gibson, he knows how he’s not spending his hard-earned money.
“I’m not buying any steaks,” he said with a smile.
For live updates from the United Center, follow Sam on Twitter @SamZuba.