Nobody’s confusing Mike Dunleavy with being the savior for this Bulls’ team, but the news about the setback with his back injury is clearly a huge blow.
Dunleavy went to see specialists on the west coast this week after suffering a setback at a time when it appeared like he would be rounding closer to game action after he underwent lower back surgery right before training camp.
He’ll have to undergo four to six weeks of rehab before being re-evaluated again to see if he can go back to on-court action, according to a report from Yahoo! Sports.
“We're just going to put him back on the rehab schedule,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We don't have a time frame yet at this point. He's just got to continue to get better, make progress every day and hopefully we'll get him back out there on the floor.”
Another six weeks leads well into the new calendar year, which brings more doubt into whether Dunleavy will actually play this season. He’s advancing in age and back injuries are nothing to trifle with.
Dunleavy, 35, has been a consistent performer in his two years in Chicago, adding an element of toughness and savvy in addition to his actual production. Tony Snell and Doug McDermott have shown flashes in his absence but the consistency from a night-to-night basis hasn’t been there.
Snell and McDermott have each shot 24 of 52 from 3-point range, ranking seventh in the NBA in terms of accuracy.
“Well, he is a valuable piece. He's a veteran influence for our guys,” Hoiberg said. “I'm really pleased with what Tony and Doug have done in Mike's absence up to this point. E'Twaun (Moore) has also filled in. We've had some different lineups just based on the different injuries we've had. Kirk (Hinrich) has obviously given us great minutes when he's been out there.
“So the guys have obviously filled in very well, and filled the role that Mike would give our team. So, again, we'll take a cautious approach with Mike and I'm confident the guys filling in will continue to play well.”
Hoiberg isn’t exactly sure what happened to cause Dunleavy’s setback, and it came as a bit of a surprise considering he traveled with the team on its west coast swing right before thanksgiving, a trek that required him to sleep in foreign hotel rooms and beds, a tricky prospect considering it’s his lower back.
Hoiberg said he doesn’t think it’ll change anything with the organization’s plans not to make any personnel moves to absorb his absence.
There was no update for Nikola Mirotic, who suffered a concussion early in Wednesday’s game against Denver and didn’t return. His status for Saturday’s game against Charlotte is still in the air and will be determined by the medical staff.
“We held him out today, per the concussion protocol,” Hoiberg said. “He's got to go through some tests. He feels better, feels a lot better than he did yesterday so he'll continue to go through tests throughout the day. It'll be a decision they make on Niko's status tomorrow.”
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Joakim Noah stepped up in Mirotic’s absence, but Hoiberg didn’t indicate whether Noah would automatically become a starter or even if rookie Bobby Portis will get some valuable playing time.