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No More Rookie Moves for Dunleavy

Warriors' forward and son of Clipper coach puts a rough first season behind him.

October 26, 2003|From Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. — Alone on the court, Mike Dunleavy swished short jumper after short jumper. When the ball eventually bounced out, he grimaced. It was 90 minutes before a recent exhibition game for Golden State, and Dunleavy had energy to burn.

Assistant coach Jim Boylen rebounded the ball and fired it back to Dunleavy -- over and over again.

"I don't like to fail," said Dunleavy, who won't go so far as calling himself a perfectionist. "I don't like things not to be right. I don't like messing up."

That's why he's so thrilled to have a tumultuous rookie season behind him.

Dunleavy is ready to become an impact player in the NBA. He wouldn't have left Duke a year early had he not believed this was the right path.

It was the obvious path, really.

The 6-foot-9, 221-pound forward grew up surrounded by pro basketball players, as his father, Mike, coached in the league. Now, his dad is back in coaching after a year off, in charge of the Clippers.

And the two Dunleavys are finally in the very position they have envisioned for years: as opponents.

Last week, they faced off in an exhibition game, with Dunleavy scoring a game-high 19 points in the Warriors' 93-69 win.

It was the elder Dunleavy who sat in the stands for several games last season to support his son, who needed that show of confidence in a big way. They spoke often last season whenever Dunleavy needed words of encouragement or just an honest assessment of his performance.

Dunleavy, the third overall pick in the 2002 draft, started just three games but played in all 82, averaging 5.7 points and 2.6 rebounds in 15.9 minutes. Only two other rookies -- Yao Ming and Amare Stoudemire -- appeared in every game. Yet Dunleavy never found a rhythm.

"I thought it went fine," the father said. "I think he was a little disappointed in his playing time, but if you look at their team when they drafted him, it was kind of surprising they drafted him to begin with -- because their highest-paid player, Antawn Jamison, was playing in front of him. So, it was one of those deals where you say to yourself, 'Well, gosh, there's not going to be a whole lot of minutes for you.' But you go in and take the minutes that's there and do what you can with them."

Dunleavy's role has already been upgraded significantly thanks to offseason moves that included Gilbert Arenas leaving for the Washington Wizards and a trade that sent Jamison to the Mavericks in a nine-player deal that brought Nick Van Exel to Oakland.

Dunleavy spent the summer working out at the Warriors' training complex with several teammates in anticipation of his increased responsibilities. He even added 15 pounds of muscle to his wiry frame.

"It was good to be in a routine all summer, and it was important to play in the summer league," he said. "It's a full-time job for me now. It's all about getting better fast, and maximizing my potential.

"I know that nothing is going to be given to me. If I'm going to be a starter, I'm going to have to earn it. I got a little taste of it last year, a taste of starting and responsibility. I thought about that a lot while I was spending all that time working out this summer."

Dunleavy is more comfortable being part of a veteran team, which the Warriors certainly were not last season when they missed the playoffs for the ninth straight year.

"I fit in well with those guys," he said. "I grew up watching those guys."

The elder Dunleavy wasn't a demanding dad who constantly pushed his three sons to play basketball. He says he simply exposed them to the sport and let them choose how seriously they wanted to be part of it.

With Mike -- who's Michael on the Clippers' scouting report -- he knew the talent was there when he was barely a teen.

"Mike went to one of Rick Majerus' camps when he was a freshman in high school, and one day when I picked him up afterward, Rick said to me, 'Hey, listen, I will offer him a scholarship right now.' And I was laughing, but he said, 'No, I'm serious. If I was allowed to have a commitment from him right now, I would take him,' " the father recalled. "And that said volumes about how he could play and what he could do."

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