Friday Marks A Reunion Day For Wolves In Chicago
Friday marks the first time the Wolves and Bulls will face off this season.
While that’s all great and dandy, it’s a secondary storyline.
The real storyline here is that it's the first time Jimmy Butler will return to Chicago since being dealt to Minnesota on draft night in exchange for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the No. 7 overall pick (Lauri Markkanen).
It’s also a ‘Welcome Back!’ moment for a few other Wolves.
Let’s start with Butler.
Jimmy Butler, Bulls, 2011-17
Butler developed into a three-time All-Star in Chicago, mostly under the tutelage of one Tom Thibodeau. He went from the No. 30 pick in the 2011 draft who averaged 2.6 points per game to the face of the franchise just three seasons later. Talk about a guy who put the work in.
In his six seasons in Chicago, Butler averaged 15.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game while making the playoffs in five of those seasons.
The Bulls are expected to play a tribute video for Butler and Taj Gibson (more on him in four words) in the first quarter.
Taj Gibson, Bulls, 2009-17
Gibson was actually traded by the Bulls on Feb. 23 last season to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but the Thunder had already played the Bulls twice that season, thus no Chicago reunion.
The power forward averaged 9.4 points and 6.4 rebounds for the Bulls in eight seasons after being drafted 26th overall in 2009. He became an instant contributor for the Bulls as a starter and bench player. The Bulls made the playoffs six times with Gibson on their roster.
Tom Thibodeau, Bulls, 2010-2015
Thibs got his first head-coaching job with the Bulls and went 255-139 (64.7 percent), making the playoffs in each season. He was the Coach of the Year in 2010 and was a six-time Coach of the Month winner. The Bulls made the playoffs in each season with Thibs at the helm.
He returned to the United Center last season and the Wolves won 99-94 in his return behind 24 points from LaVine. Butler led the Bulls with 27 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals. After being introduced to the crowd, Thibodeau received a standing ovation.
Jamal Crawford, Bulls, 2000-04
Put your memory cap on.
Crawford was traded to the Bulls on draft night after being picked eighth overall. Crawford spent his first four seasons in Chicago, averaging 17.3 points and 5.1 assists in his last season there. He was traded to the Knicks in 2004.
He missed out on Thibodeau’s time in New York as an assistant by two seasons.
Aaron Brooks, Bulls, 2014-16
Brooks played under Thibodeau in Chicago for two seasons as primarily a backup point guard. In those two seasons, Brooks averaged 9.6 points per game while shooting 37.6 percent from the 3-point line.
We’ll cover off on the former Wolves for the Bulls when Chicago comes to Minneapolis on Feb. 24.
Tipoff between the Bulls and Wolves in Chicago is on Friday at 8:30 p.m. The game will air on ESPN, Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO.