DUDLEY THE ULTIMATE ‘GLUE GUY’
You could tell in his former teammate’s voice how much Jared Dudley will mean to the Clippers.
“He’s, arguably, the best teammate I’ve ever had and an even better guy,” Suns forward Channing Frye said. “I would pick Jared No. 1 if we had an NBA Fantasy Draft. I think he brings everything to the table.”
Frye and Dudley were teammates for four seasons in Phoenix. They were close, members of a five-man bench unit that improbably helped lead the Suns to the brink of the NBA Finals in 2010. Frye seemingly couldn't wait to discuss Dudley. And while he may not win many real fantasy leagues selecting a player first overall with career averages of 9.0 points and 3.6 rebounds, the point was not lost.
“He’s that glue guy that every team needs,” Frye said. “He’s a great teammate. He’s funny. He’s serious. He plays good ball. He knows his role and is going to be a great asset for that Clipper team.”
Knowing his role is what helps make Dudley so valuable. He doesn’t have to score or create baskets to impact a game. He does the little things in expert fashion.
In Portland it was his defense, pesky and bothersome, that led to deflections, steals that resulted in fast-break dunks and helped control Nicolas Batum in the Clippers’ preseason opener. A week later in Sacramento it was his rebounding, not by his sheer total of three, but how he kept Kings players away from the boards as well or snuck in to keep the ball alive. On one possession he was deep in the left corner, where he prefers to lurk in Associate Head Coach Alvin Gentry’s offense. As the ball caromed off the rim, Dudley had hustled to the correct spot, near the left elbow, and swatted it back to Darren Collison to preserve a possession.
“He’s just so good for us,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s just such a good calming influence on our offense and our defense. He’s always going to be in the right spot. He’s going to make shots. He’s going to give us toughness. I think that 3 spot, with him and Matt [Barnes], we’re going to have 48 minutes of IQ, veteran, toughness. We’re pretty good at that spot.”
Through the first three preseason games, Dudley had only shown glimpses of his 3-point ability. But the career-40.5 percent 3-point shooter, got loose in his first game back in Phoenix since being dealt to the Clippers this summer. He connected on three shots from long range in a less than four-minute span at the end of the second quarter.
Just minutes earlier, Dudley and Frye shared the court for the first time since the lockout-shortened season, when Frye was healthy and Dudley was still a reserve in Phoenix. Coincidentally, Gentry was still their coach. The two glanced at each other as Dudley checked back in and shared a brief smile at the 4:06 mark of the second quarter. Dudley promptly nailed a 3-pointer a few seconds later as he slid up to the right wing and got a kick-out pass from Chris Paul.
Despite his 12-point outburst in Phoenix, Dudley has focused on defense through the preseason, deciding to let the offense work itself out.
“For the most, part for me, it’s me knowing when to pick and choose my spots,” Dudley said. “Right now defensively is where I think I can help the team out the most, just as far as helping out with rotations and being there. Offensively, that will come in due time. Once these guys get a little more comfortable with the offense and knowing it more in and out, that’s when the wrinkles and counters work better.”
And when the time comes for Dudley to make a big basket or contribute more on that end of the floor, there’s no question that he will be up for the task.
“He just kind of fits in and does his role,” Rivers said. “Really, with our players we needed that. We didn’t need guys competing against each other. We needed guys who just kind of wanted to fall into their roles.”
From Frye’s vantage point, that will suit his former teammate perfectly.
“When you know where you fit in, I think you don’t really have to deviate,” Frye added. “I know, I’m going to shoot the ball eight out of 10 times and those two times that I don’t I have to make a play. Jared understands that. He trusts in the people he’s around. He plays better with better players around him. He’s going to make open shots. I can’t say enough good things about him.”