CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers are much different than what new small forward Mike Dunleavy Jr. thought they would be like after coming off of an unprecedented run to their first-ever NBA Championship last summer.
In being the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit in The Finals and do so against the reigning world champion Golden State Warriors, the Cavaliers twice won at Oracle Arena in Oakland. And with that, Dunleavy assumed there would be a championship hangover. But that has proven to be anything but the case over the first week of training camp.
“It’s a pretty humble group coming off of winning a championship and making The Finals two years in a row,” Dunleavy said after a recent practice. “They like to joke around, have a good time, but when it gets down to time to do work, they’re serious.
“These guys put the time in, and you don’t always see that with teams. I’ve been on a lot of teams where guys come and go, show up five minutes before practice, leave right after. We’ve got our best players here an hour-and-a-half early, staying an hour-and-a-half late. Quite honestly, that’s new to me.”
Dunleavy spent more than a decade competing against Cavaliers small forward LeBron James, and those battles yielded no results in the way of championships.
But when the opportunity presented itself to join the Cavaliers after a trade from the Chicago Bulls, one of their chief Central Division rivals, Dunleavy welcomed it with open arms.
“It’s been good, just been getting my feet wet and my shirt wet too,” Dunleavy said. “It’s a veteran group of guys that have been around a little bit in this league. As far as the new stuff and the terminology and all that, I’ve seen it before and I’ve played against these guys a bunch, so right now, it’s going pretty well, the transition.
“It couldn’t have worked out better for me as far as what I’m looking for at this stage of my career. I was just really happy about it, really excited and looking forward to rocking and rolling this year.”
Over his 13 years in the NBA, which includes stints with the Warriors (2002-2007), Indiana Pacers (2007-2011), Milwaukee Bucks (2011-2013) and Bulls (2013-2016), Dunleavy has averaged 11.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists over 28.4 minutes in 933 career games.
Known for his shooting abilities, Dunleavy has averaged 44.1 percent from the field and 37.6 percent from three-point range.
“He has a lot left," James said. “We wouldn’t have reached out to him if he didn’t have anything left. He’s just a guy with a high basketball IQ, comes from a basketball pedigree and family.
“Over the course of his career, he’s just played winning basketball wherever he’s been going back to high school, to Duke, to the teams he’s played with in the NBA. He’s just a great locker-room guy, just a true professional, so it’s great to have him.”
As a true professional, Dunleavy is not demanding to have a consistent role with the Cavaliers, and whatever coach Tyronn Lue asks of him, that is what he will strive to deliver.
“Just help out any way, shape or form I can,” Dunleavy said. “Whatever these guys need me to do, I’ll do. They know that I can play a few positions, can play some different roles. Whatever they need, I’m down for it.”