The 2011-12 Milwaukee Bucks weren’t remarkable by any measurement. Coached by Scott Skiles, they finished ninth in the East and missed the playoffs by 4 games in the lockout-shortened season.
But during Mike Dunleavy’s 11 seasons in the NBA, those Bucks were the best team he has played for, with a 31-35 record.
Introduced to the media Wednesday at the Berto Center, the Bulls’ free-agent addition didn’t shy away from the fact that he never has played for a winning team in the NBA.
In fact, he brought it up.
“I’m comfortable with the career I’ve had, but with me, it’s all about winning,” Dunleavy said. “So this is a major priority for me to be on a team like this that has a chance to win; certainly what I was looking for.
“Coming from college at Duke where every night you go out and expect to win every single game, I’ve been in the pros 11 years and been through a lot of mediocrity.”
Technically, Dunleavy played for the Golden State team in 2006-07 that upset top-seeded Dallas in the first round of the playoffs. Unfortunately, he was traded to Indiana on Jan. 16 of that season, when the Warriors’ record was 19-20.
Dunleavy, 33, had his best statistical season with the Indiana Pacers in 2007-08 when he averaged 19.1 points. The following season, he played in just 18 games because of injuries.
Eventually, Dunleavy did make the playoffs twice as a No. 8 seed — with Indiana in 2011 and Milwaukee in 2013. He faced the Bulls in the first round in ’11 but wasn’t much of a factor, averaging 5.0 points in 14 minutes.
This spring the Bucks were swept by Miami in the first round, but Dunleavy had a nice series, averaging 12.3 points and shooting 56.7 percent from the field.
“It’s nice to have gotten a taste of the playoffs two of the last three years,” he said. “Being in those positions has made me want to be in it more. You turn on the TV April 20 and a bunch of teams are playing for the trophy and you’re at home on your couch — it’s depressing.”
You can argue all day whether playing on losing teams makes Dunleavy a losing player. He was the No. 3 overall draft pick in 2002 (one pick after the Bulls took former Duke teammate Jay Williams), so bigger things were expected.
All he can really do, though, is hope this season with the Bulls erases all those past frustrations.
“I think everybody knows in this league, you’ve got to have good players to win,” Dunleavy said. “The guys I’ve played with — who knows what they’ll say about me in any which way — but one thing they will say is I’ve always been about the team.
“Maybe it’s to a fault, but I always put the team first and I think that will pay off here.”
Dunleavy was the Bulls’ primary target in free agency mostly because he can help improve their 3-point shooting. He shot 42.8 percent from long range for the Bucks last season while averaging 10.5 points.
On the morning of July 1, Dunleavy said he was busy changing his son’s diaper and missed the initial call from Bulls general manager Gar Forman. But they quickly connected and had an agreement before the day ended on a two-year deal worth about $6 million.
Wednesday was the first day new contracts could be signed.
Considering the market for wing shooters has been strong so far in free agency — Kyle Korver, J.J. Redick and O.J. Mayo got far more than the Bulls will pay Dunleavy — this appears to be a good move for the Bulls, who didn’t have much to spend. He said he turned down more lucrative offers.
“Being recruited, whether it’s college or the NBA or a real-life job, if you get a sense that somebody really wants you, to me that’s more important than somebody else that’s like, ‘Yeah, well, we like you, We’re interested, there are some other things going on,’” Dunleavy said. “The Bulls were just like ‘You’re our target’ and I got that feel from them and that made my decision a lot easier.”
This move will reunite Dunleavy with Carlos Boozer. They played together on the Duke team that won the NCAA championship in 2001. Two other former Bulls, Williams and Chris Duhon, also were on that team.
Dunleavy is well aware that his biggest challenge in joining the Bulls is living up to coach Tom Thibodeau’s defensive expectations.
“I don’t foresee a big adjustment, because I know the way they play,” Dunleavy said. “I watched a lot of their games, played against them a lot. It’s a lot of the basic fundamentals. They just do it better than everybody else.
“I expect to fit right in. I’m excited to be in a system that has such definitive rules and guidelines. I think it will help everyone defend better.”
If it’s defense that separates the winners from losers in the NBA, it sounds like Dunleavy will be happy to tune in to any of Thibodeau’s demands.
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