By Cody Westerlund–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Taj Gibson woke up around 5 a.m. Thursday with an understanding that this day could finally be the fateful one. For several years, Gibson had found his name at the center of trade speculation, handling it with his trademark positive demeanor, but never had the circumstances lined up like this.
A phone conversation in the early morning with agent Mark Bartelstein reinforced Gibson’s feeling that it was “serious.” Conversations with Bartelstein and Bulls executive vice president John Paxson in the early afternoon made it reality.
Thursday was his last day as a Bull.
Less than 30 minutes before the 2 p.m. deadline, Chicago traded Gibson, wing Doug McDermott and a second-round pick to Oklahoma City for point guard Cameron Payne, big man Joffrey Lavergne and wing Anthony Morrow. While the long-term implications of the deal are primarily based around the performances of McDermott and Payne, it was the exit of Gibson that carried so much sentiment.
A Bull since being drafted by the organization with the 26th pick of the first round on June 25, 2009, Gibson had spent his entire eight-year career in Chicago, a place he called “home” and had mixed emotions about leaving. Ever the professional and courteous of those around him, Gibson left the Advocate Center shortly after being traded, only to return later in the afternoon to speak with the media.
“It was emotional,” Gibson said. “I don’t really see Pax get choked up and a little teary-eyed. But he gave me a long hug, and I gotta lot of respect for Pax. He’s like a father figure, just a great guy.
“It’s been fun, just being able to put on a Bulls jersey, and every day I came to the locker room and saw my name on the back of a Bulls jersey was a dream come true. Great city, a big-time city. Just to have the fans behind me at times was a great feeling.”