Despite tough stretch for Bulls, Mike Dunleavy showing his value


Despite tough stretch for Bulls, Mike Dunleavy showing his value

The Bulls’ season appears much like pieces to a puzzle one can’t put together until after time has expired, therefore limiting the value of the pieces that would otherwise be magnified.

Players have been shuffled in and out all season long, but the one player Fred Hoiberg has bemoaned not having from the start of this year is Mike Dunleavy, whose injury-induced absence was written off as an opportunity for Doug McDermott to fulfill his potential as a lottery pick from 2014.

Dunleavy seems to settle things on the perimeter, even in the absence of Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose. Hoiberg hasn’t been shy of saying the Bulls had a losing record when Dunleavy was out last year, though it was a much smaller sample size (19 games) than this time around.

“He's just so smart. Even if he's not making shots, he knows where to be,” Hoiberg said. “The fact that you've got to guard him closely, hug him out on the perimeter. A forward with his size, at 6-foot-9, he's such a versatile, smart player. He's one of the smartest guys in the league. When he and Pau (Gasol) were out there, they had a good chemistry together.”

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He’s still under a minute restriction as he recovers from back surgery, but his contributions have been tangible, scoring in double figures in three of the last four games, as well as shooting 44 percent from 3 since his return.

“I mean, what’s wrong with — I’m cool with the minutes I’m playing now,” Dunleavy joked. “Honestly. hopefully we’ll continue to build on it, but I’m at a good amount right now where I feel like I can have a good impact on the game. Playing 14, 16, 18 minutes, that’s a little tougher. But where I’m at now is good.”

The Bulls have gone 3-6 since Dunleavy’s return, so it’s not like he’s prevented the slide to the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture — and if they wind up missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008, it’ll be much ado about nothing anyways.

But the one thing the Bulls didn’t have on the perimeter was someone dependable and consistent, even if the ceiling isn’t on a star level. Yes, he knows where he’s supposed to be, but he also recognizes when it’s necessary to break things off for a backdoor cut or a flare to the perimeter when things bog down.

McDermott’s play has improved with Dunleavy’s presence, as the two have spent time on the floor together when Hoiberg chooses to go small in the frontcourt.

“Well, I hope it helps. That's what you do as a leader, you want to set a good example,” Dunleavy said. “I know coming up in this league when I was younger, watching guys like Cliff Robinson, Jeff Foster (in Golden State and Indiana), guys like that, just every day were tough, good veterans. You learn a lot from those guys. I certainly did. So hopefully I can set an example and help a few young guys out.”

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The Bulls were scouring the trade market early in the season for a wing with athleticism and more youth while Dunleavy’s status was in doubt, but one doubts they’re unhappy with what he’s providing now.

But one wonders if there’s enough time remaining in the season for this piece to really be effective enough for the Bulls to make a genuine run when the games really count.

“We'll see,” he said. “The good news is we're close in the standings, although we haven't played great, we're still in it. That's the positive of it.”

In some ways he should be a safety blanket for Rose and Butler when they do return, as they know he’s reliable and as evidenced by some of his recent takedowns, unafraid to throw his body in front of people by way of “any means necessary.”

“Mike's got a little nasty streak to him, and that's what makes him a great player,” Hoiberg said. “Rarely do you see when Mike fouls somebody, he's going to make the basket. Some of the other guys, they love to have him because they'll put it in the hoop on them. That's not going to happen with Mike. That ball doesn't go in the basket on a hard foul.”

When asked if he was tough — like James Bond or Arnold Schwarzenegger tough — Dunleavy replied in the fashion that said a lot by not saying a whole lot.

“I'm Chris Rock tough,” he said.

Michael Porter Jr.: 'I'm the perfect fit for today's NBA game'

Michael Porter Jr.: 'I'm the perfect fit for today's NBA game'

Michael Porter Jr. grabbed some attention when he remarked that he was "perfect fit for today's NBA game" during an appearance on The Will Cain Show.

The interview went a long way towards showing off the uber-confident nature of Porter, who has consistently talked about being the best player in his class throughout the draft process. Porter also remarked that he was "an immediate impact guy," and that he "doesn't want it to take long to be one of the best players in the NBA."

His hubris has been intruiging considering the mystery surrounding the prospect.

During the interview Porter added that he would be open to doing more workouts for NBA front offices ahead of Thursday's NBA Draft. The only workout he has completed so far was his pro day workout in Chicago, and multiple reports have cited that Porter did look good shooting, though he was in an isolated setting with no defenders.

The one thing Porter has not done much throughout the process is talk about his weaknesses, which is somewhat concerning seeing as he has much to improve on. The general consensus is that a healthy Porter can get buckets at will. But if he can improve his ball-handling, rebounding and passing skills, he will be much more than a go-to scorer. Tightening his ball-handling skills is likely the key, as the ability to grab the rebound and push in transition would be a huge boon for Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg's offense.

The biggest question when it comes to Porter on the Bulls is can he fit with Lauri Markkanen? Despite receiving many favorable Kevin Durant and Paul George comparisons leading up to the draft, there is a rising sentiment that his best position in the NBA may be the power forward spot. It is not yet known if he has the foot speed to stay in front of quicker wings in today's NBA. But at six-feet-ten-inches, it is easy to imagine him having a huge advantage against slower power forwards rather than wings. While Markkanen is not currently built to be a full-time center, playing him at the five with Porter at the four would present Hoiberg with a potentially devastating closing lineup.

Versatility is the name of the game in today's league, and Michael Porter Jr. may be the key to unlocking the full potential of Hoiberg's pace-and-space attack. 

Paul Zipser says he is unlikely to return to Bulls


Paul Zipser says he is unlikely to return to Bulls

Just two years after being drafted in the second round, Paul Zipser told German media that he doesn’t see the Bulls wanting him next season.

The Bulls have until mid-July to pick up Zipser's option.

"I would not be surprised if they no longer want me.” Zipser said in German and translated via Google Translate

“Actually, I'm pretty sure I will not play in Chicago soon.”

Last month, Zipser had surgery on his fractured left foot, in his native country of Germany, which grew speculation the Bulls wouldn’t pick up his player option for next season. Zipser said the surgery "went perfectly."

Zipser showed some flashes of potential in his rookie season, averaging 5.5 per game and 2.8 rebounds in 44 games. But this past season, he played more games, but injuries derailed him from improving his overall production. He finished with four points and 2.4 rebounds in 54 games, including 12 starts.

Zipser explained that things changed from his first year to his second year.

“They were very varied," Zipser said. "The first year was just going very well. I fought my way into the team from the beginning and showed how I can help the team. The Bulls just needed someone like me. That's why it worked so well. We benefited from each other - that's why we were successful.”

“That was very different. It was not right from the beginning, and I was already struggling with my injury. It was not quite clear what it is. If you have pain in your foot, you automatically go down a bit with intensity. You just do not want to hurt yourself and be completely out. It was then difficult for me to keep my head in the sport - I did not manage that well. Nevertheless, the injury should not be an excuse.”

Nothing is official yet, but it sounds like Zipser might not dress up in a Bulls uniform next year.