Through media day and a pair of two-a-day practices to begin the season, the talk of the Bulls rightfully has been Derrick Rose.
But while the return of the former league MVP could turn the Bulls from playoff team to title contender, newcomer Mike Dunleavy will also play an integral role as an outside shooter and reserve to spell wings Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler.
The 11-year veteran appreciated that the Bulls made him a priority this past offseason, signing him to a two-year deal worth $6 million. Where he'll help is readily apparent: the last three seasons Dunleavy has made better than 41 percent of his 3-pointers, including 42.8 percent in Milwaukee a year ago, tied for eighth best in the league. He'll also add depth to a Bulls bench that had little of it last season, part of the reason Deng led the league in minutes per game for the second straight season and Butler averaged 42.3 minutes in 10 April games and 40.8 minutes in 12 playoff games.
But Dunleavy won't limit himself into a specific role. Though 11 seasons has allowed him to carve out a niche on each of the three teams he's played on -- Golden State, Indiana and Milwaukee -- he's mature enough to let the game come to him. It's expected what Dunleavy will do, but he'll let himself figure that out as time goes on.
"I’m not really looking at myself as a specific role to pigeonhole myself into anything," Dunleavy said. "Really at this point in my career, having played 11 years, no winning seasons, not a lot of playoff success, I’ll do whatever. So just go out there play, compete and if they want me to do different things I’ll do them."
He'll be asked to do plenty, but what that is depends on how well he works with point guards Rose and Kirk Hinrich. Dealing with new court generals has become the standard for Dunleavy, who has had nine different leading passers, in terms of assists, in 11 seasons. Ranging from Gilbert Arenas to Jamaal Tinsley to Brandon Jennings, he's now got at his disposal one of the most versatile point guards in the league and an efficient one coming off the bench.
"I think playing with Derrick and Kirk, I’m really looking forward to two veteran talented guys who kind of know what's going on out there," Dunleavy said. "I project the transition will be easier to what I've had in the past, but you never know. We’ll see how it goes in training camp. I know Derrick’s coming back for the first time in a year and I’m new to the team, so we’ll figure it out as we go."
He'll undoubtedly help a Bulls outside shooting attack that ranked 21th in 3-point field goal percentage and 29th in attempts per game, but as the second oldest member of the Bulls (Nazr Mohammed) he's already showing a guiding hand to the younger players.
In rookie Tony Snell he has a 21-year-old who will be asked to play a similar role, likely in smaller fashion, and a fellow 3-point specialist in Florida product Erik Murphy who both have seen help from the 33-year-old forward. Dunleavy has been in and out of the Bulls practice facility since signing in July, and Murphy said he has given both rookies pointers in unofficial workouts.
"I haven’t really sat down and talked with him but he’ll give you bits and pieces here and there, and he’s been really helpful," Murphy said, "and you see how he comes in and takes care of his business and works and takes care of his body, and he’s leading by example and instilling that in us in the same way."
Second-year point guard Marquis Teague, who has gotten in plenty of work this summer, had the chance to play alongside Dunleavy this summer in pickup games. Though Teague will be behind Rose and Hinrich and has just one season under his belt, he noticed Dunleavy's ability to get open and make heady plays right away.
"He’s really smart coming off the curls, making the right passes, he knows how to make the right plays," Teague said. "He does a lot more than I knew he could do. He’s a smart basketball player. He’s a veteran."
This year's Bulls team will garner the highest expectations of any team Dunleavy has played on, and part of his role will include veteran leadership on the second unit. But on a veteran-laden roster, one that now includes Dunleavy, the former Duke product said the Bulls' offseason preparation will help offset the pressure of lofty goals set from the outside.
"I don’t know how much pressure’s there’s going to be because we’re going to be prepared, we’re going to be ready and everything’s going to take care of itself. We have high expectations for ourselves and we’ll take preparation and we’ll turn the pressure away."