Mike Dunleavy will need more time to rehabilitate his back than was originally predicted. The Bulls could use him.
Mike Dunleavy won’t be playing for the Chicago Bulls any time soon. A day that saw one Blue Devil, Kyrie Irving, heading back to his team also saw Dunleavy’s prognosis for recovery get lengthened by another four to six weeks.
It does not help the Chicago Bulls that they are the victim and the rival Cleveland Cavs are the beneficiary of these opposing sets of stories. The Cavs without Irving are first in the East. The Bulls without Dunleavy are lacking some of their identity.
It does not help that Dunleavy’s issue dealt with his back and he is an older player at this point. Back problems have plagued NBA greats, and Dunleavy just wants a few more years as a role player.
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Naturally Dunleavy will miss the contest against the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday. His replacements have been Tony Snell and Doug McDermott. If it seemed like there was something different about the Bulls in the two earlier contests, this was it. The Bulls had a noticeable defensive gap at the small forward position. That was where Dunleavy was supposed to be.
Potentially the Bulls could experiment with moving Nikola Mirotic into the three spot, but Coach Fred Hoiberg seems reluctant to give up on using Mirotic at the stretch four spot. That could potentially cause a minutes issue with Taj Gibson, though it has not so far. The Bulls are 11-5 up to this point in the year.
The Hornets will probably try to drag one or more of the defensive bigs of the Bulls out of the lane. In this way, not having Al Jefferson may help. If the Hornets can spread out the Bulls, they can force Joakim Noah or Gibson out of the lane. If they refuse then hopefully the Hornets’ luck with three pointers holds for another game.
The next time to look for Dunleavy would be around late January.