The recent addition of Luol Deng gave Minnesota Timberwolves president and head coach Tom Thibodeau four former Chicago Bulls players whom he previously coached during his five-year run in the Windy City.
The Timberwolves have therefore been widely dubbed the "TimberBulls" this offseason due to their roster that now features Deng, Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, and Taj Gibson. Thibodeau, however, doesn't find humor in the nickname.
"People are always going to talk about different things," he said Thursday, according to NBA.com's Steve Aschburner. “But these aren't decisions that are just made on a whim."
Thibodeau said that bringing aboard Deng - who made just a single appearance last season for the rebuilding Los Angeles Lakers - for the veteran's minimum was done for the betterment of the Timberwolves, and not as part of some plan to reassemble a Bulls squad he once had great success with.
"To me, you look at the players who are available and you ask, 'Can they make the team better?'" Thibodeau continued. "From Glen Taylor, the owner, to (GM) Scott Layden, we talk things over. If we feel we can improve the team, we’re gonna do so. Particularly in a case like Luol, that’s why we (kept a roster spot open)."
Deng was selected in the 2004 draft by Chicago and played nine seasons with the organization. He earned a pair of All-Star nods, both of which came under Thibodeau's tutelage. This offseason, the 33-year-old forward agreed to a buyout with Los Angeles to free up minutes for the team's young core.
"You're familiar with them. they’re familiar with you," Thibodeau said. "I’m not the only person who has ever coached Luol, coached Derrick, coached Jimmy or coached Taj. All four of those guys have had other suitors. You talk to 'em and tell 'em how they’ll fit in, and then they have to make a decision as to whether they want to come or not.
"I think all four of those guys have added a lot to our teams. So whether a guy has played for me before or in a system where Scott had been before or maybe where one of our assistants had been, if you feel like you know a player well and he fits into your system, then why not do it? To me, I don’t really care what other people think. I care about what we think."
The Bulls teams that included all four players and Thibodeau advanced to the second round of the playoffs on two occasions. Chicago also reached the Eastern Conference conference finals in 2011 before drafting Butler in the ensuing offseason.
Minnesota is coming off a first-round loss to the Houston Rockets, in what was the Timberwolves' first postseason appearance since the 2003-04 campaign.