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Mike Dunleavy wanted to be part of no-excuses Bulls

Updated: September 30, 2013 9:33AM



Not every NBA free agent needs to be courted and recruited by a star player.

Mike Dunleavy Jr. didn’t expect Bulls superstar Derrick Rose to call him this summer and sell him on Chicago. Rose has said numerous times that it’s not his style, and Dunleavy didn’t need it.

After spending the last 61/2 seasons with the division rival Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks, Dunleavy knew what the Bulls were about. His impressions were reaffirmed last spring, when he watched the Bulls beat the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs without Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich, then go toe-to-toe with the eventual NBA champion Miami Heat before falling in five games.

‘‘Absolutely, players take note of that,’’ the sharpshooting Dunleavy said of joining a team that shows fight. ‘‘This is a high-character team. You could tell with the way other guys stepped up. There were no excuses. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be part of something like that?’’

But then there was the issue of money. Dunleavy was projected to be a $5 million-to-$7 million-a-year signee. The Bulls got him for $3 million a year for the next two seasons.

Sure, players have been pointing to the collective-bargaining agreement negotiated by former National Basketball Players Asso-
ciation executive director Billy Hunter as hurting the free-agent market. But Dunleavy, 33, said money wasn’t the biggest priority at this stage of his career.

‘‘The ghost of Billy Hunter will be haunting us for a long time, but . . . I’ve done well financially, so I could make a decision on what would make me happy,’’ Dunleavy said. ‘‘At this point, it’s playing with a group like this, having a chance to win.’’

That chance increases with the versatile Dunleavy coming off the bench. Through two days of camp at the Berto Center, coach Tom Thibodeau hasn’t been disappointed with the addition.

‘‘Obviously, he knows the league, but he’s learning a new system,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘But I think shooting helps everybody. In addition to the shooting, the passing. Anytime you add a guy who can pass the ball like that, it helps make everyone better.’’

The one area in which Dunleavy really will help is with the three-pointer. His .428 shooting percentage from three-point range last season will help the Bulls, who were tied for 20th in the NBA with a .353 shooting percentage from long range in 2012-13.

But it’s first things first for Dunleavy. That starts with using camp to fit in.

‘‘It’s certainly an adjustment as you get down the concepts the coaches want,’’ Dunleavy said. ‘‘At the same time, a lot of it is just playing basketball. I’ve played against these guys a lot in the Central Division, so I think I’m as familiar with this team as I can be without playing on it.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com



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