Mike Dunleavy Returns But Will It Matter?

One week before the All-Star break, the Chicago Bulls, who were supposed to compete with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top spot in the east, are floundering their way through the conference. They are currently a 5th seed in the conference and 1.5 games from being an 8th seed. They are closer to being in the lottery than they are to catching Cleveland and it makes you wonder if the Bulls front office intellegentsia ( I use that word cautiously), after they jerked around with team chemistry by firing Tom Thibodeau, did they ever imagine 27-21?

Mike Dunleavy is expected to make his season debut on Saturday night in Minneapolis, the second night of a back to back for the Bulls. On their current mother of God road trip that is halfway over, 7 games, two sets of back to backs, the Bulls have only managed two wins. Those were against lottery teams, the Lakers and Kings. The past three games, the Bulls defense has surrendered an average of 109 points, 48.8% shooting, 42.8% three-point bombs, 47 rebounds.

The paper contender Chicago Bulls add energy into this sorrowful display as Mike Dunelavy tries to make something out of nothing. Dunleavy had off-season back surgery, suffered a complication, and is finally ready to help the Bulls try to salvage this season. Note: anything less than an Eastern Conference Finals bid is a disaster. Dunleavy, though a welcomes sight, has never played one lick of time for Fred Hoiberg. He doesn’t know the offense. But he is familiar with Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson so the chemistry of the last few years should be there.

That was what Gar Forman thought when bringing in a new coach, the chemistry would be there. Truthfully, it hasn’t been a catastrophe, the Bulls are still in the playoff chase. But they have underachieved at every level, making the coaching change appear ridiculously vindictive and short sighted. As business decisions go, Thibodeau being ushered out, so far, has been a failure.

Before the Bulls played the Kings, Pau Gasol had a few things he wanted to get off his chest. First and foremost, the Bulls have been a selfish team.

“At the end of the day we all have to look ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves, ‘Are we doing enough? Are we doing enough to contribute? Am I worrying about the right things? Am I worrying about the collective or am I just worried aout what I do on the floor or the shots that I take, how much am I scoring, how much am I playing?’ All those things are the wrong approach to winning, so I think if we are able and capable of changing that approach individually and collectively, I think we’ll be in a better place.”

While the Cleveland Cavaliers seem to have a players meeting every time the wind blows, the Bulls have stayed away from group gathering and group problem solving because there is nothing that speaks to team unity like not getting together to figure it out as a unit. Is it a leadership problem that the players don’t see the need to come together and explore why they are losing games they should win? Or, are the Bulls just…broken?

“I’m a fan of meetings…you can put things on the table, discuss them as a group. It’s just like companies when they have meetings to anlayze and evaluate. ‘Hey what are we doing? What are you doing right? What are you doing wrong? Let’s just talk about how we’re doing and how can we be better. I think that’s when things are really on the right path.” (Pau Gasol)

Translation: the Bulls and the right path have been mutually exclusive this season. Here comes Mike Dunleavey, with his career average of 11.7 points and 4.4 rebounds. He’ll stretch the floor. He’ll play hard and while he may not be the savior the Bulls desperately need, his presence will be a jolt of energy into a team that often looks bored, listless and very, very average.

photo via llananba