This was supposed to be the year of Mike Dunleavy's triumphant return, when the smooth versatility of his game would help forge a stronger team and we'd all remember just what this team was missing most of last season.
The return happened. The triumphs have not.
Dunleavy has experienced a mysteriously quiet season. His scoring average (10.7) would be the lowest since his rookie season (2002-03), and his shooting percentages (.403 overall, .305 from the 3-point line) are well below normal.
When he returned to the court in late November, he looked very much like his old self, averaging 15.1 points and shooting .484 overall and .382 from the arc in his first nine games. Since then, however, his productivity has been in a virtual free-fall: 7.8 points, .387 shooting overall and .233 (14 of 60) from the 3-point line in his last 19 games.
It reached a nadir Saturday, when he played 4 minutes, 28 seconds in a 100-90 victory over the Bulls, his fewest since Feb. 8, 2009, his last game of last season when he re-injured his knee in the opening minutes against Washington.
"Obviously, there's just not a whole lot of rhythm there," Dunleavy said. "Some of it's out of my control. I've just got to make the most of it and try and help the team win and just try and get better.
"It's too bad because I thought we had a really good thing going and it's just not going in that direction anymore. Hopefully we can win a different way."
In 2007-08, the offense ran through Dunleavy and he averaged 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and shot .424 from the 3-point line. But the team has changed dramatically since then, evolving away from the free-flowing, up-tempo offense that leaned heavily on the instinctive reactions of the passing game.
"(The passing game) is the game Mike's best suited in," said Coach Jim O'Brien. "We're playing a game Mike's not best suited in because I would say our movement is down, say 40 percent from last year. And it's because of personnel and what the strengths of some guys are but it's certainly not the type of offense we put together with Mike in mind.
"We put it together with Mike and Danny (Granger) in mind and now we don't seem to be getting the type of offensive rhythm and movement that we want."
The good news is Dunleavy has experienced no setbacks with the knee.
"Health is wealth and I feel good and my knee's doing well and that's really important," he said. "In terms of my production, that has nothing (to do with it).
"I came back and right after the injury was fine. There was nothing wrong with me. Did well. But things have kind of just gone in a different direction and I've got to roll with the punches."
Though the knee itself is sound, O'Brien believes a contributing factor is a relative lack of leg strength.
"I would suspect that's part of it," O'Brien said. "When you take that much time off and you lose that much conditioning in your legs, I'm hoping that is the main problem.
"He's a young man. He's not having any pain, which is good. So you would assume, if that's the case and he can get the leg strength up, then he'll be the player he wants to be and we want him to be."
Is the evolution away from the offense that so suited Dunleavy's skills permanent? Or is it just a temporary aberration forced by circumstance?
"I hope so but it's tough," Dunleavy said. "It's something that's tough to replicate. You've got to have guys that really know how to play and see the floor and stuff like that. It's kind of like either you have it or you don't and we've got to have enough guys to be able to do that."