Former Golden State Warriors forward Mike Dunleavy, Jr. faced an unfair chorus of boos when he played his first game back in Oakland since the blockbuster eight-player trade that sent him to the Indiana Pacers almost one year ago.
Despite having a career year with Indiana, fans at Oracle Arena let Dunleavy have it as they voiced their displeasure in the empty promises the former first round draft pick never quite fulfilled.
The boo-birds rained down on Dunleavy, who spent his first four-and-a-half NBA season with the club, from the opening introductions all the way through to his final missed shot to close out the game. Warriors fans let Dunleavy know that he still is their least favorite player.
"In fact, Dunleavy probably was booed more regularly than any Warriors player since 1980s center Joe Barry Carroll—otherwise known as Joe Barely Cares, a moniker that fans felt fit Dunleavy as well, even if most of his former teammates disagreed.
‘He gave it all here—played hurt, played hard,’ Baron Davis said of Dunleavy. ‘He had great games when he was booed here, so I expected him to have a good game.’"
Despite the distain from Warriors fans, the forward had one of his better all-around performances this year with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists in the Pacer’s 106-101 loss to the Warriors.
Three days later, in a rematch at Conseco Fieldhouse, the Pacers outplayed Golden State in the fourth and scored 46 points in the final stanza to came back from being down 17 points to take the 125-117 win.
Dunleavy gave Warriors fans another reason to dislike him as he led the Pacers’ comeback. The 27-year-old finished the game with 24 points, nine rebounds, and was 11-for-11 from the free throw line.
Drafted third overall in the 2002 NBA Draft by Golden State, Dunleavy has unjustly come to embody a decade’s worth of futility for the Warriors—12 fruitless seasons without a playoff appearance.
He was constantly and heavily booed the last two seasons he played with Golden State.
Dunleavy has wrongly been targeted by Warriors fans after such a promising college career at Duke under coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Golden State had the worst record in the NBA leading up to the 2002 season and were in good position to grab the first overall pick and guarantee them the highly touted center from China, Yao Ming.
But once again the Warriors missed out during the lottery, were stuck with the third pick overall, and chose Dunleavy.
Still, being the third pick came with high expectations—expectations that Dunleavy didn’t fulfill.
But why do Golden State fans despise Dunleavy so much? It can’t be just that he performed under expectations, because there were plenty of players in the past who have done exactly that. Heck, the Warriors as a whole have been performing well under expectations for the last 12 years.
Was it his fault that Golden State made him the No. 3 pick? No, if anyone is to blame for the draft “bust” it has to be the Warriors scouts and management.
Was it Dunleavy’s fault that he got a five-year, $44 million contract extension? No, if you want to blame anyone for that, it’ll have to be Warriors General Manager Chris Mullin for offering it.
Would you walk away from $44 million? Yeah, I didn’t think so. So, don’t blame Dunleavy for not doing it.
“The way Mike performed, the way he conducted himself and the way we run our organization, we both felt it was something we wanted,” said Mullin in light of Dunleavy’s contract extension.
Sure, Dunleavy had problems with his inconsistency while in a Warrior uniform, but he can’t be the main reason why Golden State fans blame him for the team’s lackadaisical performance in years past.
Remember that the Warriors have had 12 straight losing seasons before last year, but Dunleavy was only part of four of those seasons. So it is unfair that fans use him as a scapegoat and blame 12 fruitless seasons solely on his shoulders.
The trade last year benefited both sides.
It brought the Warriors out of their funk and sent them into the playoffs where they upset the Dallas Mavericks in the first round.
Golden State also found role players in Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington.
But the trade also allowed Dunleavy to get away from the Warriors and a system of play that he could not thrive under.
Dunleavy is having a career year with the Pacers right now with his team-leading 17.4 points a game and career-highs in assists with 3.1, rebounds with 5.9, a 84.8 free throw percentage, shooting 41.2 percent from beyond the arc, and almost 50 percent from the field.
“I wouldn't want it any other way,” Dunleavy said of Warriors fans booing him. "It's only fitting that's the way it is. I enjoyed it. It was a good game."