DUDLEY ALL ABOUT WINNING WITH CLIPPERS
Ask anyone about new Clippers swingman Jared Dudley and you’ll likely get a similar answer.
“All he cares about is winning,” veteran forward Antawn Jamison said, mentioning Dudley specifically as one of the guys he was looking forward to playing with after he signed in late August.
When asked about Dudley’s college recruitment out of San Diego’s Horizon High, his high school coach, Zack Jones, said, “I told everybody that would listen that he was one of those kinds of kids. One, he was a winner. Two, he was a great kid. But, three, he played the game from the neck up. He was always going to be one of the smartest players on the floor. But so many guys today are enamored with athleticism that they really didn’t look at him as a Division 1 player.”
After Dudley was acquired from the Phoenix Suns in a three-team trade on July 10, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers was enamored with how well Dudley and fellow newcomers J.J. Redick and Darren Collison would fit in L.A.
“They’re great fits,” Rivers said. “They get who they are, all of them. They’re over themselves, which is so important in this league. They really have gotten past that stage in their career and they’re just trying to win and do whatever it takes.”
The stories of Dudley’s winning traits, his will, likeable personality, professionalism and adaptability are seemingly endless.
“He’s just one of those guys when you’re around him you feel good,” Jones added. “You just feel positive, [you feel] that good things are going to happen.”
It is apparent when you talk to Dudley, who is entering his seventh NBA season after a stellar career at Boston College. He is engaging, a chatterbox; introspective and interesting.
“I knew at a young age what my limits were and what my strengths were,” Dudley said. “I’ve always been a team guy first. Even when I’ve been the best player, it’s been though a system. In high school at one point, in college at one point, and I may have even been one of the better players last year in Phoenix. It’s not like I’m getting the ball and going ‘iso,’ it’s through a system. It’s knowing you have to get other guys involved. I think when you play the right way, you get rewarded and throughout my career it’s been that way.”
His ability to space the floor, defend multiple positions and do all of the so-called little things were in large part what made him such an attractive piece for the Clippers. The team surrendered a starter in Caron Butler and up-and-coming youngster, Eric Bledsoe, to nab Dudley and Redick.
Since his rookie season in 2007-08, Dudley has never shot worse than 38 percent from 3-point range. He commits a low number of turnovers, is an above average foul shooter and helps players around him thrive. He tallied a career-high 203 assists last season in Phoenix, including 35 that led directly to Marcin Gortat dunks or layups. That number could vault even higher in L.A. with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan alongside him in the front court and Chris Paul finding him stationed in the corner.
As Jones might say, Dudley is never the fastest or most athletic player on the floor, but he also rarely makes mistakes and is always aware of advantages and opportunities. In a way, that’s been the story of his career.
He was lightly recruited out of high school despite leading Horizon to two state championships and being named the 2003 San Diego Union-Tribune Player of the Year. He eventually wound up at B.C. only after a strong showing in AAU ball the following summer. A week after signing he was on campus. Four years later he was an All-American and soon-to-be first-round pick by the Bobcats.
“I just think that every situation that you go through, you get an opportunity,” Dudley said. “Sometimes you have to make your opportunities. Sometimes it’s in practice where I was in Charlotte. When I was there, the starting small forward was Gerald Wallace, the backup was Adam Morrison, who was the third pick. Wallace got hurt, Adam Morrison tore his ACL, so it was an opportunity for me to play.
“You’ve got to find your niche in the NBA. I didn’t really have a niche, wasn’t a shooter, was just basically a role guy, wasn’t the best defensive player at that time. It wasn’t until my second year when I was like, ‘Hey, you know what, for me to play, I’ve got to be on the floor to space, to knock down shots.’”
That really hit home during his second year in Charlotte, when he shot 37.5 percent from distance through the first month. He was dealt to Phoenix after 20 games, a move that would alter his career.
“I saw the opportunity to play with Steve [Nash] and I just got really, really good one summer,” he said. “All I did one summer was work on threes, because you don’t really dribble the ball when you play with Steve so I got that by my third year. Matt Barnes left because he was there in front of me; they traded Jason Richardson for Vince [Carter]. I had two games, where before Vince had come, I had my back-to-back career highs against San Antonio and Miami. So, then people could see what I could do.”
According to Jones, Dudley has always had a knack for showing people what he’s capable of, even though Dudley hardly had the look of a prototypical basketball player when Jones first met him at a basketball camp more than a decade ago.
“He was a chubby little dude when he came out,” Jones said. “He was probably around 5-11, 5-10 when he got there. Then he hit growth spurts. His freshman year he got a couple of inches. Then he had another spurt his senior year.”
The two connected almost instantly. Dudley said Jones had the “intimidation factor” working in his favor back then. The coach is large man, somewhere in the neighborhood of 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, according to Dudley. His son, Dominique, is a second-year tight end with the Indianapolis Colts.
“We always have a basketball camp in the summer time and he came to that camp and we just connected,” Jones said. “Then, I had a chance to sit down and talk with him and his mom. His dad wasn’t really in the picture at that time. You could tell that he was kind of looking for someone that could be that father figure in his life. We just connected and from the beginning, day one, we just had this connection. But I just loved his work ethic and how smart he was. He did not let [negative things] effect what his goals were in life.”
Dudley and Jones, who serves as founder and director of Supreme Court Athletics in San Diego, still keep in contact regularly. And now, instead of being hundreds of miles away, Jones is merely a jaunt down Interstate 5.
For Dudley, the Clippers pose a wondrous opportunity. Not just because of the team’s proximity to his hometown, but because of the way he fits in from a basketball perspective.
“To be honest with you, it worked out perfect for me,” Dudley said. “I think my skill set relies on a winning team. If I could pick any team, even before I came to the Clippers or what position [I would be in], it would be this because they lost Caron [Butler] obviously in the trade. So you have me and Matt Barnes, we’ll both be fighting for playing time, but you have an elite point guard, you’ve got elite bigs that can roll and take up space and you’ve got veteran players that just know how to play. So for me, it’s the perfect situation, even being from San Diego, it’s a bonus, but basketball-wise it’s favorable.”
After working out in Las Vegas for a short time this summer, Dudley returned to Los Angeles in early September. He attended the Boston College-USC football game at the L.A. Coliseum and has been a fixture at the Clippers’ Training Center since he arrived.
“I think everyone’s excited,” Dudley said, sounding rather enthusiastic himself. “With [Chris Paul’s] new deal, him being a part, Doc coming in… you bring in players like me and J.J. [Redick], where we’re only going to help the locker room. There’s no ‘Hey, this is your team, or my team. I need stats.’ Nobody cares about stats. We’ve all done well financially. I think everyone’s common goal is just to win. That’s what you need, that’s the hardest part. Then after that, it’s just chemistry, where at the end of the day, it’s not going to be us not trying to work together.
“We’ve got the pieces, we’ve got the coaching staff and now it’s, ‘Hey, do you have the chemistry? Do you have a little luck with injuries, and all that?’ You’ve got everything together here to work with it. I think you can definitely hear the excitement in people’s voices in here.”