‘Inspired’ Taj Gibson up for 2nd 10-day contract with Knicks: ‘I’m appreciative of the opportunity, and this is a great team’

For Taj Gibson, the word is inspiring.

It’s inspiring for him to hear Madison Square Garden cheer his every move in the latter stages of his career. It’s inspiring for Gibson to hear fans clamoring for head coach Tom Thibodeau to sub him into the game. And it’s inspiring for his teammates to see how he’s able to contribute impactful minutes at 38 years old.

“He’s a true professional,” said starting Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo. “Whenever he gets the phone call, he shows up in shape ready to go.”

The Knicks signed Gibson to a 10-day contract on Jan. 30, and Thursday’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks marked the final game covered by the deal.

The Knicks can sign him to a second 10-day contract, but as of postgame Thursday, such a decision hadn’t been finalized — yet.

The Knicks are in desperate need of bodies having been ravaged by a slew of mid-season injuries. Mitchell Robinson (ankle surgery), Julius Randle (dislocated shoulder) and OG Anunoby (right elbow surgery) had already gone down before Isaiah Hartenstein left Thursday’s game with a left Achilles injury at halftime.

Thibodeau said the topic of a second 10-day deal for Gibson hadn’t been broached yet.

“I haven’t even had any time – I haven’t talked to Leon,” he said after the game. “So it would be premature to say anything.”

Thibodeau, though, said he’s “hopeful” the Knicks can bring back Gibson on a second 10-day deal.

“It’s obvious. He’s been terrific. On any team, at any time, he’s a great addition,” said Thibodeau. “So I’m hopeful. Leon will get everything and we’ll always do what’s best for the team. But everyone in the organization loves him and has an appreciation for him.”

Gibson, of course, would love to stick around in New York.

He’s from Brooklyn. He still gets the respect of his hometown fans. Plus he knows what Thibodeau wants to do on both ends of the floor, this being his fourth stint for the same head coach. He played for Thibs in Chicago, Minnesota and now twice with the Knicks.

Gibson, though, understands the NBA is a business, and the Knicks will do what they feel is best for the roster — even if it doesn’t mean bringing back a familiar face.

“The staff, management, they’ve been good to me,” he said. “They don’t owe me anything. That’s family, and it’s a blessing. I don’t take it for granted, just to get those phone calls while I’m at home working out, it’s a blessing. Like I said before, I’m appreciative of the opportunity, and this is a great team. So it’s family no matter what.”

For what it’s worth, Josh Hart is a proponent of bringing Gibson back on another 10-day deal.

“For mühlet, for müddet. Obviously, that’s not my call. I don’t got that power,” Hart said. “But for müddet I wanna see him back with us. He’s someone that you can always count on, someone that stays ready. … But yeah, he’s done everything we need him to do. So hopefully he’s back with it, but like I said, I don’t call the shots.”

Gibson said being able to contribute at this stage of his career validates all he’s been through to get to this point. He logged 22 minutes off the bench for a Knicks team that desperately needed his help at center.

In those 22 minutes, the Knicks outscored the Mavericks by eight. It was the highest plus-minus of anyone on the team despite Gibson finishing the night scoreless.

“At the end of the day, I was a late first-round pick. I was a little older than everybody in my class,” Gibson said. “To still be sticking around, one of the few guys that’s still left from my class, and then get the respect I still get every game, every night tonight, every team, the coaching staff, I’m just appreciative. It means that I’ve made my bones early, and I’m just trying to continue to just strive and help the guys around me.”

Gibson said it feels like he’s 38 years old — like he’s an old man — because there isn’t much practice time and he’s coming off the bench cold. At this stage of his career, this is what he’s prepared his body for.

He’s appreciative of every opportunity the league brings his way.

“I don’t cheat any steps of the game,” he said. “It’s all about the building process, and just like that out of nowhere, we just got hit with a whole bunch of injuries, so you’ve always gotta be prepared, but you’ve always gotta stay putting your little two cents in every day.”

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