The Timberbulls Are a Head vs. Heart Dilemma


Would Kirk Hinrich, a former Chicago Bull who is now 37 years old, come out of retirement if Tom Thibodeau came calling to have him run the point? I doubt it. But with the way the Minnesota Timberwolves have picked up a plethora of players from the Chicago Bulls’ Thibodeau era, I don’t blame anyone for expecting such news to arise.

Last Monday, Luol Deng officially signed with the Timberwolves after agreeing to a buyout with the Los Angeles Lakers, joining his former coach Thibodeau and Bulls teammates Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose. With his addition, the Timberwolves have never lived up more to the name of “the Timberbulls.”

As someone who was born and raised a Bulls fan, part of me can’t help but be ecstatic about such a team. After all, the 2010-11 Bulls — which featured Deng, Gibson and Rose — is one of my all-time favorite teams. It was Thibodeau’s first season as an NBA head coach, and Derrick Rose was in his prime. Chicago was expected to be good, but their 62-20 regular season finish atop the Eastern Conference was better than expected.

That said, with the addition of Deng, the overpowering nostalgia such a team presents Bulls fans is undeniable.

With Thibodeau as his coach, Deng truly flourished, becoming a two-time All-Star who could do it all. So how could it not be sentimental to know the two will get to be on the same team again?

Deng played an integral role in helping Butler become the elite player he is today, so how could it not be heartwarming to know the mentor and mentee will be reunited again with the student now having surpassed the master?

Then consider the fact that Deng, Gibson and Rose played on the same team for four and a half seasons with Butler also there for those last two and a half seasons. During such a time, they dealt with an injured Rose multiple times but constantly persevered regardless of such hardships. So how could it not be emotional to know they’ll all be together again?

Monday night, Dwyane Wade indirectly tweeted about Thibodeau signing Deng.

Such a sentiment is one I share. Thibodeau’s loyalty to and belief in his former players is heartwarming. But such heartwarming sentiments aren’t necessarily the best thing basketball-wise.

As a general basketball fan, I can’t help but be concerned about such a reunion and how Minnesota’s season will turn out, because it’s not 2010 anymore.

Nearly a decade has passed since Thibodeau took his first NBA head coaching gig. Now the NBA is centered around offense and 3-point shooting, which doesn’t match Thibodeau’s coaching style and defensive emphasis. His insistence to give his players extended minutes on a regular basis has never been scrutinized more than it has been recently. Rose’s knees have suffered numerous injuries since then, making him a vastly different player from the athletic, explosive guard he once was.

Deng isn’t the all-around reliable glue guy he once was either. At 33 years old, Deng is set to enter his 15th NBA season, but he hasn’t played a full season since his last the 2012-13 season, his last full season as a Bull. Last season, Deng played just one game: the season opener.

Butler is a much better player than he was as a rookie in 2011, and Gibson has become a more effective player since being a second-year player during Thibodeau’s first season in Chicago. But the combination of Butler, Deng, Gibson and Rose isn’t anywhere near as exciting now talent-wise as it was in the early 2010’s.

There’s more to Minnesota than the former Bulls, though.

Tyus Jones, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are young key players for Minnesota. Then there are rookie Josh Okogie, newly acquired forward James Nunnally, and veteran guard Jeff Teague. However, the concern comes from whether these younger guys will get the minutes they need over former Bulls Deng and Rose. They are more important to the organization’s future — at least they should be.

Deng and Rose aren’t a part of the team’s core like Butler and Gibson are. Knowing this, the two should be key bench players who provide important veteran presences. The season has yet to begin, so whether this will be the case remains to be seen. But given Thibodeau’s preferences, chances are they’ll play a much larger role that hinders their effectiveness and, in turn, the team’s success.

Despite that, seeing Butler, Deng, Gibson and Rose sporting the same jerseys and sharing the same court as Thibodeau screams his lungs out at them is a sight my heart wants. But, at the same time, it’s a sight my brain knows isn’t smart.

That’s just what the Timberbulls are: a perfect example of head versus heart.

About Ashley Wijangco

Ashley is a Filipina American writer and Illinois journalism graduate based in the Chicago suburbs. She has a decade's worth of sports writing experience, having been published in several online publications. She writes about the Bulls, the Sky, and general NBA content for The Lead.

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