Mike Dunleavy making most of unexpected situation
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter January 12, 2014 7:45PM
Mike Dunleavy is averaging 14.3 points and 5.6 rebounds in three games since the Bulls traded Luol Deng. | AP
Updated: February 14, 2014 6:21AM
This season hasn’t been exactly what Mike Dunleavy thought he was going to get when he signed with the Bulls.
He’ll take the playing time, but when he was looking for a team as a free agent last offseason, he definitely had a checklist.
Playoff contender? Check.
Superstar on the team? Check.
Key spot off the bench for him? Check.
Two weeks into January, that checklist is all but ripped up. Derrick Rose lasted only 10 games before suffering a torn meniscus in his right knee and having season-ending surgery, and Luol Deng was traded last week to the Cleveland Cavaliers, making Dunleavy a starter. At least there are still the playoffs to pursue.
‘‘Just trying to do whatever the team needs,’’ Dunleavy said. ‘‘As I’ve been here longer, I’ve become more comfortable, but I kind of just take what’s there. I came in here, and my mind-set was to help this team and organization in any way. I didn’t think it would be in this capacity. I thought I would be playing a lot less, but things change, and I think I had myself prepared. So hopefully we’ll be able to keep playing well.’’
Surprisingly, that hasn’t been a problem since Deng’s departure. The Bulls have won five consecutive games, including three after dealing Deng. Since the trade, Dunleavy is averaging 14.3 points on 50 percent shooting and 5.6 rebounds, and the Bulls are a plus-13 with him on the court.
‘‘The thing about Mike that adds a lot to your team is his passing,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. ‘‘Obviously, Mike is a very good catch-and-shoot player and provides space for your post-up players. But he feeds the post extremely well. I think he understands ball movement, knows when to make the extra pass. I think he also knows how to move without the ball.
‘‘So to categorize him as strictly a catch-and-shoot, spot-up [guy], I think he’s a lot more than that. I think he’s a complete player. You know, Mike was . . . at a very high level prior to his injury in Indiana. He was averaging almost 20 points a game, so he’s already proved what he can do in this league.’’
He has, but Dunleavy wasn’t expecting to be doing this much at 33.
It’s all hands on deck for the Bulls these days, though. Despite being short-handed, the Bulls are playing some of their best basketball of the season, even if it is coming in a soft part of their schedule. The team that keeps getting punched with bad luck finally is punching back.
‘‘This group, the guys that have been here — I mean this year and Derrick going down [in the playoffs in April 2012] — I think we’re kind of experienced in terms of having setbacks and disappointment, if you will,’’ Dunleavy said. ‘‘This one [the Deng trade] has kind of been seamless. We’ve kind of just moved on. We miss Lu — he’s a great guy, great teammate — but that ship has sailed, and you’ve got to move on. We’ve done exactly that and have continued to play well.’’
Still, there are plenty of trade rumors hovering over the Bulls. Dunleavy is a part of that, with at least four teams calling about a possible deal.
‘‘The amount of rumors that are out there compared to the amount of times someone gets traded . . . it’s not even worth giving too much thought to,’’ Dunleavy said. ‘‘That’s the way you handle it.’’
After all, that was never on the checklist, either.