NEW YORK — For the second consecutive night, Mike Dunleavy Jr. was the Bulls’ leading scorer and while the veteran newcomer isn’t exactly proud of starring in a losing effort, his ability to adapt and step up when needed bodes well.
“That’s part of being a pro, being in this league for a long time. Whatever’s asked of you, go out there and do it,” said Dunleavy, who had 20 points, eight rebounds and three apiece of assists and steals. “I’m obviously getting a lot of looks. Tonight was disappointing because I had some great ones and they just didn’t go down. But getting comfortable out there, playing a lot of minutes. But obviously, that being said, I can’t wait for these other guys to get back.”
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Without injured All-Star small forward Luol Deng and starting shooting guard Jimmy Butler, Dunleavy’s role has changed from reserve to starter and his scoring burden has also increased. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau is pleased with the fact that Dunleavy can adjust so seamlessly, but also isn’t surprised that the coach’s son is capable of doing so.
“He’s a pro. He prepares himself each day, puts a lot of work in, you can count on him and if you ask him to start, he’s ready to do that. You ask him to come off the bench, he’s ready to do that,” Thibodeau explained. “Even if he doesn’t shoot well, he does other things for you. He’s always going to rebound, he’s always going to play for the team. That goes a long way.”
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Teammate Taj Gibson chimed in: “Playing against him the last couple years—he’s been in the Central Division—it’s been kind of tough, but having him on your team, it’s great. We’re just trying to run more plays for him. He’s hot right now. Like we said in the beginning of the season—it was tough for him because he couldn’t hit shots—but now he’s knocking them down. We’ve just got to find more ways to get him better looks. Now teams are closing in, but it’s up to us to adjust and just keep playing hard.”