It was admittedly not easy for Taj Gibson to leave New York. He grew up in Brooklyn and returned to the city to play three years for the Knicks. This summer, he left to join Washington for what will be his 14th NBA season.
The 37-year-old, though, said a big part of his decision to join the Wizards was that he sees them as a team on the brink of surprising a lot of people around the NBA. He’s been in the league long enough to know talent and believes there is plenty of it on the Wizards despite the fact they finished 35-47 last season and fell short of the playoffs.
“I’ve seen they have a young and talented team. It’s a sleeper team and I just want to be a part of something special. The NBA is full of ups and downs, but I wanted to go to a place where I can just put my veteran mentorship and whatever I can to add to the team,” Gibson said.
He continued when asked for specifics: “From my perspective, the group is really good. From my eyes, because I’m watching the games, I’m seeing there was a lot of games gone, but at the same time they were super competitive the whole year. Even the last few years, just super competitive. I don’t know, it’s just the NBA is real secretive when it comes to things like that. You look at everybody that the team acquired this summer, everybody [they drafted, traded for and signed] is a dog. [Everyone] is hungry, counted against and they’re looking for the right opportunity and the right place, especially a place like D.C., that is capable. It all comes down to guys getting together and understanding what we’ve got to do to win.”
Gibson specifically mentioned players like Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma, Kristaps Porzingis, Daniel Gafford and Rui Hachimura when discussing the Wizards’ core. In talking about their offseason acquisitions, Gibson was referencing a group that includes Johnny Davis, Delon Wright, Monte Morris and Will Barton.
Gibson, though, suggested he has been a fan of the Wizards’ roster for years now.
“The Wizards always have tough players. They always have a lot of talent,” he said.
Gibson’s role in all of it should be fairly straightforward. He projects to be the team’s third center behind Porzingis and Daniel Gafford. More minutes may be had if Porzingis plays some at the four, or in cases of injury to either of the two ahead of him on the depth chart.
Gibson will also be relied on as a veteran leader who can help young players like Davis, Gafford, Hachimura, Deni Avdija, Corey Kispert and others continue to develop as professionals. During his introductory press conference via Zoom, Gibson harped on team chemistry and how he plans on helping that cause in practices and in games.
“They have so many talented guys, I’m just a fan of all of them. I’m just lucky enough to be able to be able to say I can go into the gym and get better with these guys, build a bond with these guys. That’s my whole goal,” he said.
Gibson certainly has a lot of experience to share with the Wizards’ young players. At 37, he is the oldest player the Wizards have had since the 2014-15 season when Andre Miller was 38 and Paul Pierce was 37. The only players in franchise history older than Gibson are Miller, Charles Oakley (39) and Michael Jordan (39).
Don’t let his age fool you, however. Gibson remains a productive player and last season he averaged 8.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per-36 minutes in a bench role. He doesn’t play a ton, but is efficient in making an impact when he’s on the floor.
The Wizards will now hope he can keep that up through one more season and, ideally, share some wisdom along the way.