Dunleavy gets his NBA bearings
Ex-Jesuit and Duke star breaks out with a 15-point game
OAKLAND, Calif. Ñ Life as an NBA rookie can be like that of a novice surfer. Hit the waves board up, ride through the wild stuff, do the best you can and learn from the experience.
The first 10 games in the career of Mike Dunleavy Jr. were as smooth as a tsunami. The former Jesuit High star and Duke All-American shot .195 from the field, gathering splinters on coach Eric Musselman's bench and drawing raised eyebrows from media and fans who wondered if Golden State had made the wrong decision with the No. 3 pick in the draft.
Last Saturday, Dunleavy broke out, just as the Warriors did, in a 135-92 rout of Orlando. It was the worst loss in Magic history and Golden State's most one-sided victory in a decade. Dunleavy came off the bench for 11 points, four rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes.
'Reminded me a little of my college days,' says the son of former Blazer coach Mike Dunleavy. 'It was a lot of fun.'
Dunleavy hadn't had a lot of that in a Warrior uniform. Through 10 games, he was 8 of 41 from the field, with 29 points in 131 minutes. Then he met with Musselman Ñ son of the late Bill Musselman, who was an assistant to Dunleavy's father in Portland.
'It was a clear-the-air kind of thing,' says Dunleavy, 22, who left Duke after his junior season. 'I didn't get off to the start (to the season) I wanted, and I'm sure he felt like I was frustrated. We kind of agreed to start anew.'
Maybe something clicked. Dunleavy scored a career-high 15 points in 28 minutes Monday against the L.A. Clippers.
A mental lift
'He has kind of perked up mentally,' Musselman says. 'Sometimes you don't understand how much you have to continue to communicate with your players. I said some stuff he might not have wanted to hear, but it still was a benefit to both of us.'
Except for his freshman year at Duke, this is the first time Dunleavy has been a reserve. He played all of 18 seconds against San Antonio.
'I'm kind of a rhythm player, and it's harder to get into a flow,' he says.
Dunleavy has shot well from 3-point range, making 8 of 21, but is only 11 of 39 on 2-point attempts.
'I just haven't felt comfortable,' he says. 'I'm not sure why. One thing, I haven't had many easy shots Ñ layups and shots like that. I don't feel like I've been pressing. I just have to be patient. I mean, even Tracy McGrady took a couple of years to really get his career going.'
Standing out on court
At times, the 6-9, 220-pound Dunleavy looks like Bambi in sneakers, his thin, angular frame loping upcourt with long strides, a fawn amid a pack of cagey wolves. He gets his share of rebounds but needs years in the weight room to develop strength if he is to bang inside.
The physical immaturity doesn't mesh with the savvy and experience he gained as a coach's son. Dunleavy has scrimmaged with NBA players since his days at Jesuit and fared just fine.
The pace of the game is faster than it was in college, 'but it hasn't affected me as much as you might think,' he says. 'Once I go around the league once, I know I will do better.'
Dunleavy is playing mostly small forward, the position manned by Golden State's top player, Antawn Jamison. But Dunleavy's prime virtue is versatility.
General Manager Garry St. Jean, who drafted Dunleavy before Musselman was hired, scoffs at any second-guessing about Dunleavy's future.
'How many rookies are jumping in this season and dominating and playing with great composure?' St. Jean asks, then waxes poetic. 'Patience is a virtue seldom seen in a woman and never in a man.
'We are going to be plenty patient because we know there's a very good basketball player there. And his teammates love playing with him.'