It’s been a busy offseason for the Knicks, and Taj Gibson likes what he’s seen.
Gibson, who re-signed with the Knicks in August, is just one of a bevy of moves the team has made since the end of its successful 2020-21 season.
The Knicks added former All-Star guard Kemba Walker and wing Evan Fournier, re-signed Julius Randle to a four-year, $117 million extension after his breakout season, and brought back Derrick Rose, Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks.
The Knicks’ 41-31 record and No. 4 seeding in the Eastern Conference may have surprised many around the NBA, but Gibson doesn’t expect any success this season to generate the same reaction. "To be honest, I don’t want to put my foot in my mouth," he said, "but this team looks really stacked."
Gibson spoke Saturday in Brooklyn, his hometown, during his "Booger Smith Classics" event for the Taj Gibson Foundation. The showcase featured 10 hours of basketball for players ages 10-19.
"This event is always important because it’s the hometown," he said. "It’s the people I grew up watching every day, literally walking out of apartments, literally going to the store for the people I grew up with, so it’s a lot of deep ties. I try to stay as normal as possible as far as being able to be approachable, being able to stay in my community, and that’s the way it’s been."
Gibson doesn’t want to just be known as an NBA player to younger kids. He and his foundation want to be involved in mentorships.
"It’s always good to give back, but it’s more than just giving back," he said. "I’m looking at the deeper issue of it because I understand this is the next generation."
Gibson will be able to spend plenty of time in his community after returning to the Knicks on a two-year contract worth $10.1 million. The second year is a reported team option.
Gibson, 36, said he spoke with multiple teams during free agency, but his ties with coach Tom Thibodeau, a talented roster and the chance to play in New York sold him on staying with the Knicks — even with offers for more money elsewhere.
"It was real frustrating, but it was a good frustrating," Gibson said. "But at the same time, I knew I made the right decision. Money doesn’t move me. I just wanted to be a Knick."
Gibson originally signed with the Knicks in 2019. He averaged 5.4 points and 5.6 rebounds in 20.8 minutes a game last season.
The 12-year NBA veteran said he hasn’t taken a vacation this summer. Instead, he’s been spending time working with the young players in the Knicks’ camp, along with the youth in his foundation.
"They know I’m always willing and ready to play, but right now I’m just happy to be the vet on the team," Gibson said. "The guy that comes in and works out hard every day — but always capable — and I’m having a good time being with these young guys every day and just trying to build a culture."
Gibson has seen the teams in the middle of the Eastern Conference improve. He knows there will be a lot of squads looking to compete with elite teams such as the Nets and defending champion Bucks.
"It gets harder," Gibson said. "I think the Bulls are a team that’s going to try to make some noise. The Pacers are tough. The whole East is going to be better. Everybody’s going to be better."
Gibson has been impressed with young players such as Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley and second-round selection Jericho Sims this offseason. He also thinks the return of Mitchell Robinson, who missed the end of last season with a broken hand, will add to the team’s depth.
"Everybody gets better every year, so you’re not really going to sneak up on teams," Gibson said. "But as long as our foundation is secure and we can stay healthy during training camp and all these things, hopefully we can do some damage."