Caught in the Web
By Conrad Brunner of Pacers.com
Finally, Dunleavy gets noticed
Dec. 23, 2010
Funny, what Mike Dunleavy has to do to get noticed.
His game-winning, buzzer-beating, heart-stopping tip-in to beat the Hornets Monday night took him out of the background and into the spotlight, and he frankly seemed kind of comfortable, running the length of the court with his No. 1 signal high in the air, smiling broadly when tackled by Danny Granger, and then pumping his first mightily before raising both arms when the officials' replay review confirmed the moment.
For Dunleavy, it was ironic to be the center of attention after what he deemed an otherwise "terrible" performance (eight points on 3-of-11 shooting, four assists, three rebounds, two steals) but his overall productivity this season has been quietly strong.
"The thing that we rarely talk about is Mike Dunleavy," said Coach Jim O'Brien, "and Mike Dunleavy is having a really, really strong year."
Playing pain-free for the first time since high school, finally back to full strength after major surgery in March 2009, Dunleavy has been an island of consistency. He's fifth on the team in scoring (12.2), second in rebounding (5.7), third in 3-pointers made and attempted (44-of-122) – and fourth in blocked shots (18).
I asked Mike what he thought about his game this year and he used the word "solid." He's not happy with his shooting percentage (.450) but is generally pleased with his overall game. Always a solid and versatile player on offense, the more mobile and agile Dunleavy has become more effective as a defender, as well. O'Brien said the team's best defensive combinations at the wing include Dunleavy.
"He doesn't make mistakes defensively. He does exactly what you want offensively," said O'Brien. "He's got a good assist-turnover ratio, he's a good rebounder, he's a good communicator. He's overlooked, I think, by all of his, starting with me. I think he's having a great year."
Because he's one of the older players (30) on a very young roster and in the final season of his contract, Dunleavy also is frequently overlooked in discussions of the team's future, but O'Brien considers him "100 percent, absolutely" part of the Pacers' core group of players. He recently said he "desperately" wants Dunleavy to be a part of the team's future.
Indiana has been good for Dunleavy's career, and he knows it. He said he'd like to stay but isn't really getting into that discussion yet because he's remaining focused on the season and his quest for a first playoff berth.
"No doubt about it," Dunleavy said, "I love being here."
Safe to say after Monday night, the feeling is more mutual than ever.