Basically out of the blue, the Bulls announced starting small forward Mike Dunleavy underwent a successful lower back microdiscectomy procedure earlier today, which will result in Dunleavy missing approximately 8-10 weeks. In the press release, the team stated Dunleavy experienced "occasional back discomfort" over the summer, and despite rehabilitation efforts, it was ultimately decided that surgery was the best option moving forward. Obviously, this news isn't great.
From a medical standpoint, Jeff Stotts of InStreetClothes.com reports that 75 percent of players needing a discectomy reported back related-issues later in their career. So, in other words, your back worsens as you get older. Which -- whether you're an athlete or not -- isn't all that surprising. But also, Stotts explains that while the procedure removed the problem from Dunleavy's back, that in-and-of-itself presents issues which tend to resurface.
From a basketball standpoint, this is clearly a big blow to the Bulls. I've expressed how important Dunleavy is to the Bulls before. He's a team player beyond the traditional "glue guy" sense. In many ways, Dunleavy kept the Bulls' engine running over the past two seasons. In fact, prior to missing a month during the middle of last season, part of what made Dunleavy so important was his dependability. In his first season in Chicago, the guy played 31.5 minutes a night while not missing a single game.
To be sure, a back injury to a 35-year-old is something which should cause a great deal of concern. But beyond that, what's equally as concerning is the unknowns that are Dunleavy's replacements: Tony Snell and Doug McDermott. Going into training camp, both Snell and McDermott figured to be jockeying for minutes with the second unit. Now, one of the two becomes a full-fledged starter. There's a job there for the taking, and an open competition can certainly be a good thing (despite the circumstances creating the opening being the opposite of good).
Needless to say, Fred Hoiberg's job just became a whole lot more difficult. To Hoiberg, Dunleavy represented a veteran who he could trust in terms of positioning and court awareness, both on offense and defense. The 8-10 week timetable puts Dunleavy's return, at best, in mid-November; at worst, early-December. On the bright side of things, Dunleavy won't be out long enough for the Bulls' season to spiral completely out of control (and even if it did, it's more an indictment of the rest of the roster than Dunleavy's presence). But on the flip side, it's just long enough to probably know whether or not Snell/McDermott will be swimming, or will have sunk.