November 27, 2009
Dunleavy's return to lineup nears
Uncertainty surrounding Granger increases Pacers' urgency
By Mike Wells
Mike Dunleavy compared his smooth-looking jump shot to riding a bike: You never lose it once you have it down.
The toughest part for Dunleavy, who has played in 18 games in the past 17 months, is getting into shape and working on his timing.
The Indiana Pacers swingman is slowly getting those aspects of his game back, and with that said, Dunleavy could soon be making his long-awaited season debut.
"I'm really close," Dunleavy said. "At this point I would say it's day-to-day."
The Pacers host the Dallas Mavericks tonight at Conseco Fieldhouse. Dunleavy is not expected to play.
Some members of the Pacers organization have become quite eager for Dunleavy to return, especially with the uncertainty regarding Danny Granger's sprained left medial collateral ligament.
"I anticipate he should not be out much longer and, I would say based on what Danny's situation is, I would suspect he needs to get back to the court," coach Jim O'Brien said.
Dunleavy's minutes will be monitored when he returns.
The Pacers haven't had a lot of practice time, which would have benefited Dunleavy's efforts to get into game shape.
Dunleavy has not been in a game since Feb. 8, when he played three scoreless minutes against the Washington Wizards.
He had surgery to remove a bone spur from his right patellar tendon, then had the tendon repaired in March.
Dunleavy was prepared to open training camp when an MRI revealed a grade-2 strain a day before the start of practice.
"Over the course of the process, I think I've developed so much patience," Dunleavy said. "You realize everything you put in is not worth messing up over skipping a step in the process and getting out there too early. We've done a great job with this whole thing. I feel better than I thought I would ever feel. There's no point in messing that up right now."
The Pacers could use a healthy Dunleavy.
His ability to move without the ball will help a team that is often stagnant on the perimeter, relying mostly on jump shots. He's also a solid team defender.
"Mike's going to add another shooter for us," swingman Dahntay Jones said. "He's very, very smart. He moves well without the ball and he's a great basketball mind.
"He's going to be a great addition to our team and what we're trying to accomplish."
The Pacers have been streaky. They've had losing streaks of three and four games, respectively, and a winning streak of five games.
"I like our guys, but I think we've gone through some periods where we've gotten down on ourselves too much and we've probably thought we were better than we were too much," Dunleavy said. "That's why you can see we've gotten on some streaks both ways.
"If we can somehow develop the discipline to come out and execute on both ends of the court each night, I think we can be a really good basketball team, but that remains to be seen if we can do that."
Everybody in the organization is keeping their fingers crossed that Dunleavy will remain healthy and not have any more setbacks with his knee.
"I believe in what I've done. I feel like it's sturdy," Dunleavy said. "This isn't the type of injury where I blew my knee out."
Mavericks (11-4) at Pacers (6-7)
» Tipoff: 8 p.m. today, Conseco Fieldhouse.
» TV: Fox Sports Indiana.
» Radio: WFNI-1070 AM.
» Pregame MVP: Nowitzki will be a tough cover for the Pacers, especially if Danny Granger misses his second straight game. Murphy and Jeff Foster will likely be responsible for trying to slow the league's seventh-leading scorer.
» Prediction: Mavericks by seven. Dallas has won seven of the past eight meetings against the Pacers. The Mavericks won both games last season by a total of five points.
-- Mike Wells