Bulls Land Mike Dunleavy Jr.

Mike Dunleavy Jr. is set to join the Bulls and replace Marco Belinelli as their next sharpshooting wing off the bench.

Just days after the Blackhawks hoisted their second Stanley Cup in four years, thousands of Chicago sports fans everywhere found themselves asking the very same question: “Well, what I do with myself now?” Both Baseball teams are absolutely abysmal, with the White Sox currently 17 games under .500 and trailing the AL Central-leading Tigers by 13 games, and the Cubs acting like, well, the Cubs at 10 games under .500 and 14.5 games behind the NL Central-leading Pittsburgh Pirates. Hockey is over. Bears training camp doesn’t start until July 25th. So what does that leave us with? No, sorry Sky fans, with all due respect to Elena Dell Donne, we are not about to post about Women’s Basketball. What we can do however, is once again follow the real basketball that gets us going: the one and only Chicago Bulls and their free agent carousel.

Yes, that’s right; July is here, so that means another summer of three-way trades and free agent pick-ups to keep up with. While the Bulls are not expected to land any big names this summer, they have still been actively on the market revamping their “Bench Mob,” and trying to land the missing pieces around Derrick Rose and Co. that will help them maintain their contender status in the even more competitive Eastern Conference. That activity has led the Bulls to their first, and likely last, off-season splash, landing 6-9 sharp shooter, Mike Dunleavy Jr.

Dunleavy will become the third Duke Alumni to join the Bulls locker room this upcoming fall. He brings in an impressive college pedigree, including a National Championship, three years under the winningest coach in College Basketball history, and the Number 3 Draft Pick in the 2002 NBA draft. Those that remember Dunleavy in college remember something special. He was your prototypical Coach K product. Smart, clean-cut, played the game the right way and, most importantly, a winner both on and off the court. In the 2001 National Championship game, Dunleavy went off for 21 points, helping Duke secure their 3rd National Championship, and cementing his place among the Duke greats. When he was drafted by the Golden State Warriors following his junior year, expectations were high. To say Dunleavy hasn’t lived up to those expectations would be fair, but to say that he has failed or hasn’t turned into a positive bench contributor could not be further from the truth.

In Dunleavy’s first five years in the league for Golden State, he flirted with a starting line-up role and being the sixth or seventh man. Known for his three-point shooting, Dunleavy proved reliable, shooting at least 35% from downtown in all but one year, 2005-2006. He was eventually traded to the Indiana Pacers, and it was there where Dunleavy finally thrived. It’s funny – athletes often come back a completely different specimen after an off-season, leading fans to wonder who helped them during the summer months, or what prompted this increased style of play. Now I might be a bit biased, but for Mike Dunleavy Jr., I’d like to say I have a strong idea of what led to his most successful season in an NBA uniform.

It was the summer of 2007, and like every year since the turn of the century, I was at my second home, Camp Menominee in Eagle River, WI. I had just turned 18 and there was a buzz in the air that Mike Dunleavy Jr. would be returning to his boyhood camp of 2 years for the weekend. Yes, that’s right, the same Mike Dunleavy Jr. that your Chicago Bulls just signed, attended the same camp as myself in the early 90’s.

Dunleavy Jr. revisiting his youth at Camp Menominee in Eagle River, WI during the summer of 2007.

Although his stint was shorter than most, his effect was permanent and that summer, he came up to be honored at the unveiling of the “The Mike Dunleavy, Jr. Courts.” It was one of the cooler moments I have ever been a part of. To see a professional athlete of his status so touched and humbled by a 200 person over-night camp in northern Wisconsin recognizing his achievements was truly special. I got to spend some time with Mike that weekend and he was everything as advertised. An ultimate class-act, high-caliber individual, and the type of person you would be proud to call your teammate.

There’s a chance it was that moment of recognition for Dunleavy that made him strive to work even harder, to be even better than he was before, and to prove to critics that he could indeed blossom into the pro that analysts thought he would after college. He did just that, and in style,  by starting every single game and setting career numbers in minutes per game, field goal percentage, assists per game, and points per game (19.1) throughout the 2007-2008 season for the Indiana Pacers. He would go on to have a nice four-year career in Indiana in which the pressure was finally off to him to be an All-Star, allowing him to settle in as the sweet-stroking, hard-working forward that he was destined to be.

So Bulls fans, what are we getting in Mike Dunleavy Jr.? Your answer lies within the text. We are not getting an All-Star or a guy that is going to drop 30 a night, but we are getting a fundamentally sound basketball player, who knows his strengths and weakness, and won’t ever try to be anything he’s not. He will come off the bench and provide a needed rest for the starters and hopefully build on his career year from behind the arc in 2012-2013 in which he shot 45% on spot-up 3s, 45% on threes off screens, 48% on transition threes, and 42.8% overall, per Synergy Sports. With Marco Belinelli gone, it is time to stop dwelling on the past and focus on his replacement, an experienced veteran who won’t lead us to the NBA Finals, but will sure as hell help us once we get there.

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Posted on July 8, 2013, in Bulls and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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