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Tom Thibodeau is literally turning the Timberwolves into his old Bulls team

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Luol Deng signing with the Wolves is more proof that Thibs is bringing the gang back together in Minnesota.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Chicago Bulls - Game Three Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Add Luol Deng to the list of former Chicago Bulls players that head coach and team president Tom Thibodeau is rallying together in Minnesota.

Deng agreed to a one-year deal at the vet’s minimum of $2.4 million with the Timberwolves on Monday, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. The move confirm one thing everyone knew, but could’ve used more confirmation for anyway:

Thibodeau is bringing his Chicago Bulls back together in Minnesota.

Thibodeau took over as Timberwolves head coach and president three summers ago. Since then, he’s gone a long way, through trades and other acquisitions, to bring his old gang back together. Five of Thibs’ former players are either on the roster, coaching staff, or front office in some capacity.

Here’s how this reunion way, way up north began:

April 20, 2016 — Timberwolves hire Tom Thibodeau

Minnesota Timberwolves v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The unfortunate passing of Flip Saunders left Timberwolves management two positions to fill: head coach and team president. The Wolves played the remainder of the 2015-16 season out before hiring Thiboeau to a reported five-year deal worth $40 million as Saunders’s replacement.

The Timberwolves also hired Scott Layden as general manager to serve under Thibodeau. Layden was not part of the Chicago Bulls at any point, but he did serve in the front office as either executive vice president or preside and general manager with the New York Knicks from 1999-2003 while Thibodeau was an assistant coach.

2016 offseason — Thibodeau hires old assistants

Thibodeau filled out his coaching staff by hiring three people that worked with him in Chicago. Andy Greer, his lead assistant, worked with the Bulls from 2010 to 2015 and also worked as a fellow assistant with Thibodeau in New York and Houston. Ed Pinckney also worked with the Bulls from 2010 to 2015, while Rick Brunson worked with Thibodeau from 2010 to 2012.

August 24, 2016 — Wolves sign John Lucas III

Lucas III only played in five games with the Wolves last season, but he had spent two seasons in Chicago playing for Thibodeau during their playoff run. He was waived later that season and retired shortly after, but he joined the Wolves’ coaching staff as a player development coach last summer.

June 22, 2017 — Bulls and Wolves make huge draft-day splash

Minnesota Timberwolves v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The Bulls had decided Jimmy Butler wasn’t going to be the face of their franchise going forward, so they began fielding offers that would bring back the best mix of young players and draft picks. In came Thibodeau and the Timberwolves, dishing out Kris Dunn, an injured Zach LaVine, and the pick that became Lauri Markkanen.

The biggest chip of the Bulls reunion in Minnesota had finally fallen.

Butler always praised Thibodeau for pushing players to the maximum. In his first season in Minnesota, Jimmy Buckets led the NBA in minutes played. He later tore his meniscus, and is currently sidelined likely until the playoffs.

July 10, 2017 — Wolves add another ex-Bull

Minnesota had its pillars lined up beautifully. With Butler leading the charge and Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Jeff Teague flanking him, the Wolves had as formidable a lineup as you can find across the league. They only needed a legitimate power forward to round out the starting five.

So Thibodeau did what he does best and brought in a player who he knew: Taj Gibson. Gibson joined the Wolves on a two-year, $28 million deal, immediately bringing toughness, veteran wisdom and defensive intensity to Minnesota.

September 21, 2017 — A small addition

In an effort to add some depth and veteran wisdom at the point guard slot, Thibodeau signed Aaron Brooks to back up Teague and Tyus Jones. Brooks played in Chicago under Thibs for two seasons from 2014-16.

Brooks was not re-signed entering the 2018-19 season.

March 8, 2018 — Another last domino falls

New York Knicks v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

It can’t be a Bulls reunion without the most famous Bull since Michael Jordan. That title belongs to Derrick Rose, the youngest MVP in NBA history whose career was derailed by a series of never-ending knee injuries.

Rose averaged 25 points, 7.7 assists and four rebounds per game in his 2010-11 MVP season, leading the Bulls to an Eastern Conference Finals loss to LeBron’s Miami Heat. The following season, he tore his ACL and was never the same. He was traded to the Knicks, where he spent one season, before signing with Cleveland this summer.

Amid a spiraling season, the Cavaliers made a midseason pivot and traded almost every player they acquired over the summer. That included Rose, was sent to Utah and eventually waived by the team.

September 10, 2018 — There are still more ex-Bulls?

Yes, there are, and now, he’s on the Timberwolves. Luol Deng agreed to a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract worth $2.4 million with Minnesota on Monday. So long as he passes his physical, he’ll be part of Thibs’ master plan.

A fully healthy Deng played in just one game for the Los Angeles Lakers last season. They bought the remaining two years of his contract at $30.5 million (a $7.5 million savings figure) and let him become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He averaged 7.6 points on 30.9 percent shooting from three in the 2016-17 season.


Now Deng rejoins Thibodeau, Butler, Gibson, Rose and Lucas III in Minnesota as the Wolves navigate the wild Western Conference. They will attempt to make consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since the Kevin Garnett era.

There’s one more domino remaining, and that’s Joakim Noah, the embattled center with two years worth $37.8 million left on his contract with the New York Knicks. The Knicks don’t appear to be in any rush to buy that exorbitant contract out. But if they decide to, there’s one mad man who’ll be ready to scoop Noah up off the market.