SALT LAKE CITY — When veteran sharpshooter Mike Dunleavy Jr. signed with the Bulls as a free agent over the summer, he made it clear that his primary motivation for coming to Chicago was a chance to win a championship.
With the season-ending injury to Derrick Rose, Dunleavy understands that his goal might not be as feasible, but the competitiveness the undermanned Bulls showcased last season, when the former league MVP missed the entire campaign, was another draw for him.
“Ironically, one of the reasons I came here was because of last year, the way this team performed under adversity and the way that the circumstances were. I was really impressed with that, so that was one of the reasons why I came here and here we are again, in the same boat. So this is a really solid group. We’ll respond well and you just hope Derrick gets back whenever he can, and he’s as good as ever,” Dunleavy explained. “I think we’ll be very competitive. On a nightly basis, we’ll defend, rebound and we’ll find a way to score, find a way to get baskets. As the season goes along, we’ll get better and I think we’ll have a shot to win every night.
“We’ve got a solid group of guys. I’m really not concerned about the locker room,” he added. “This group has done this before and there’s no reason to believe we won’t do it again.”
In the short time Dunleavy has been teammates with Rose—with whom he shares an agency, Wasserman Media Group — the point guard has made a strong impression on him, so he was just as devastated as his teammates to learn the former league MVP’s fate for the season.
“It’s tough for everybody. You certainly feel for him,” Dunleavy said. “He’s a great teammate. He’s our leader out there on the court.”
“My initial reaction was, ‘Gosh, I hope it’s not anything related to the surgically-repaired knee,’ and when it was the other knee, you’re like, ‘Okay, well, that’s good,’ and then you think it’s the ACL,” he continued. “You hope it’s not that. Then, you find out it’s not that, it’s the meniscus. So you think that’s good and then he’s going to miss the whole season, so ultimately, you just feel for him. He’s such a great guy, great teammate and just, you’re disappointed for him.”
Dunleavy was also asked whether he was worried about being traded, in the event the Bulls decided to accelerate the rebuilding process.
“You don’t really get concerned about that type of stuff,” he said. “It’s really out of your control, so I haven’t really given much thought to it, to be honest with you.”