Luol Deng reportedly agreed this week to join the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he will be reunited with head coach Tom Thibodeau, who coached him for three plus seasons when both were in the Chicago Bulls organization. He will join Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, and Taj Gibson in Minnesota, reuniting a good chunk of the core of the 2012 Bulls, less like the Paladins of Voltron and more like the wind-scattered bones of a desert skeleton, assembled on a tarp by a deranged archeologist.
Deng led the NBA in minutes per game in consecutive seasons under Thibs, and finished in the top five in total minutes twice, part of Thibodeau’s cutting-edge strategy of just playing his best players more than the other team plays theirs. History has shown how well his players’ bodies hold up and how gracefully they age into the latter stages of their careers: Carlos Boozer was amnestied for uselessness by the Bulls in 2014; Joakim Noah is an actual mummy; Derrick Rose is a ruined shell of his former self; and Deng—who was recently bought out of a lucrative contract by the Los Angeles Lakers, not coincidentally just as they’re positioning themselves to start actually winning games—is the world’s oldest 33-year-old. Here, more or less, is what happed to Deng, once a genuinely excellent two-way player, during his time playing for Thibs:
So now behind the exciting core of Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl-Anthony Towns the Wolves will have the wailing ghosts of the 2012 Chicago Bulls. Gibson was still a useful player last season, and it’s not out of the question that Deng could rediscover some role playing limited minutes on a decent team, but mostly this has the reek of Thibs having no better idea than to get the old group back together. At least they don’t yet have Noah. Yet. There’s still time!