Mike Dunleavy's final game in a Pacers uniform at Bankers Life Fieldhouse was a Game 4 playoff win against the Chicago Bulls three years ago. That W extended his career one more game where it ended in Chicago three nights later.
Tonight, Dunleavy returns to the Fieldhouse in the Bulls' visiting red uniforms on the other side of a Central Division rivalry which expects to heat up even more this year. The game will mark Dunleavy's debut with the Bulls in what could be a key role off the bench. Dunleavy seems like a perfect fit for Chicago where he can apply his team-oriented game to fill needed gaps in various playing rotations for Tom Thibodeau.
Dunleavy had an enigmatic tenure with the Pacers after arriving under difficult circumstances in a trade that broke up a talented Pacers team for good and started a rebuilding job that is now in the past. Dunleavy, Troy Murphy and Jim O'Brien served to bridge the Pacers over the rough waters of re-establishing the franchise and culture which was a painful time. Dunleavy wasn't a vocal leader and his hefty paycheck made him a target for fan dissatisfaction.
In fact, I bet I hear a few boos for Dunleavy when he takes the court at the Fieldhouse tonight. I've never understood the negative reaction Dunleavy brings out since the guy can play basketball and works well as a cog in a system which can help mask some of his physical disadvantages on the court. No he wasn't an outgoing ambassador for the Pacers, which is a stark contrast to the current crew in blue and gold. But he also had to work through lingering injuries which made his time with the Pacers eventually fade with even less impact.
Seeing Dunleavy at BLF should brighten every Pacers fan's night, offering a chance to consider and appreciate the current state of the team and how far the franchise has come in the past few years.
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