Jared Dudley on a Potential Return to Play

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

Since Jared Dudley made his Instagram debut on April 30, and soon after joined us for an IG Live, we’ve gotten a lot of what his teammates have benefitted from all season long.

The 13-year veteran who’s well-informed on all things NBA has already hosted live chats with Danny Green, Dwight Howard, Kyle Kuzma and Quinn Cook, much to our collective entertainment. Last week, Dudley was the one taking questions, as he took part in a Zoom call with media members who cover the Lakers to share his thoughts on what’s happening with the league amidst the COVID-19 hiatus.

“Right now, (I’m) 90 percent confident of returning,” Dudley said to start the call. “The only reason why I wouldn’t say 100 percent is because you’re dealing with the unknown virus that can happen at any moment … now we’ve got more data, we’ve got more research. L.A.’s got more testing for everyone, not just professional athletes from all over, facilities are starting to open back, so for us, everything’s gearing of opening up … but everything’s heading for us to get back in the facilities and get to start practicing before training camp hits.”

Like his teammates, Dudley has begun to work out individually at the UCLA Health Training Center, which was opened last week under strict guidelines to protect the players during this COVID-19 pandemic.

“Very similar to like if you go to the hospital,” Dudley explained. “You’ve gotta have a mask on in the training room, but once you get to the court, it might look funny with your assistant coach wearing a mask and gloves, but basketball takes over, you’re not even thinking about it, I’m not thinking about the 12 foot distance even though they are. It’s for me just to get my workout in and moving and get to the weight room. And in the weight room I’m not wearing a mask, both coaches and strength coach are wearing a mask and gloves, they all have stuff under their shoes.”

Dudley has been spending some of his time speaking with key NBA Players Union leaders like President Chris Paul, and has been on calls with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, getting as much information as he can that he can subsequently distribute amongst other players, especially younger guys that may not know as much.

Dudley laid out a scenario based upon some of those calls about what we could see in June.

“I’m not expecting full practice, I’m expecting workouts to go and be able to have more people on the court,” he said. “If you remember before I think it was only three or four people you maybe could have? Not just that, per coach, and so I just think the ability to be able to do more individual group sessions, maybe three to four people and then build up. I don’t think you’re going to go from zero to 100. Especially with the politics have gotten so involved with basketball returning, but you can’t just go from that to 10 on 10 full court. Just your body wise, so I think they’ll give us seven to 10 days of individual works, then that next seven days practice and then you’ll get your two to three week training camp before we head to Orlando and Vegas.”

There have been various media reports that Orlando and Vegas would be the most likely sites for games, with Orlando emerging as a favorite over the weekend, according to ESPN and other reports. Dudley was asked what he thought about a “bubble” concept.

“So I think that people are getting a misconception,” he replied. “It’s not, it’s going to be a bubble in the sense of here’s gonna be your hotel where you stay at, here’s gonna be the gym where you play at. But you will be allowed to leave. (Executive Director of the NBAPA) Michelle Roberts has said it. Even Adam Silver on a conference call.

“Now just because you leave, if we’re gonna give you that leeway, if you come back with (COVID-19) you can’t play. We’re gonna be tested all the time. It would be smart of teams, so like ‘Bron, AD and all the top guys we have, we’ll be wrapping them in a bubble and not letting them go anywhere.”

In other words, Dudley thinks it will be up to the Lakers to worry about themselves, to encourage one another to be as safe as possible, to ensure the best chance to keep everyone healthy and to build towards a championship.

“You’d want to say ‘Listen guys we’ve come too far,’” he continued. “We’re going to put our family on hold. Some will have family members come. I don’t expect it to be initially, I expect it to be after a week or two and eventually they’ll be tested. I just think it’s something we have to sacrifice. There’s a lot of money at stake. There’s a lot of stuff for fans. I think we owe it to fans to be able to play. I think there’s a lot of Laker fans that want to see us play. We can bring hope and bring comfort and bring joy and entertainment.”

Among the bigger discussion points are the return-to-play scenarios. Do the standings freeze where they were, with the Lakers locked into the No. 1 seed? Are there a limited number of regular season games that count? Are there warm up games for the postseason that don’t count in the standings? Do all 30 teams return? Just the playoff teams? Some hybrid?

“I’ve heard two or three different scenarios,” said Dudley. “I’ve heard one scenario that there would be 5-to-7 regular season games, to get them to the 70-game mark at one point in time for some of these local (TV) deals. That’s iffy on that. I’ve heard if it wouldn’t be everyone coming back, maybe a play-in game for that eighth spot maybe up to 11th seed.

“I think straight to playoffs is easier. We’re on a little time constraint when it comes to finishing in September and preparing for the next season, getting the Draft in. I just think going right to playoffs, getting some preseason games, maybe three or four in Orlando or Vegas and get right to it.”

Every NBA team has played at least 63 games, nearly 77 percent of the schedule, which to me is representative of a season. It could be difficult to open up the seedings for teams outside of the playoffs, and give the 8th-seeded Grizzlies - who have a 3.5-game lead over Portland and New Orleans – a proper advantage, given that home court won’t be a possibility with each team likely playing in the same neutral site. It would also be difficult to schedule out who would play whom in games that counted towards the regular season schedule, depending on the difficulty of each opponent.

“When you’re dealing with the pandemic, we obviously can’t finish the last 17 to 20 games (after) two thirds (of the season was played),” Dudley went on. “So there’s going to be someone (left) out. Technically is it unfair that we went straight to playoffs? Is it unfair to Memphis if we have a play-in game and they’re 3.5 games up? And so at the end of the day, it’s so much bigger than those teams so whatever the league comes up with to be able to generate ratings, to be able to help us out financially – the ramifications of (the hiatus), to be able to help these owners out – I’m for.”

Should the standings in fact be frozen towards traditional matchups, the Lakers (49-14) would draw Memphis (32-33) in Round 1, and be on the side of the bracket as No. 4 seeded Utah (41-23) and No. 5 OKC (40-24). Dudley said he’s heard that full seven-game series are most likely.

There’s also the issue of how long it will take players to get their bodies right.

“You want me to go into the practice facility and I can’t get the adequate rhythm and timing,” Dudley explained. “I can’t even play pickup. Most athletes get in shape by playing. It’s like telling a runner, she can’t run outside to be able to get ready for a race. So for us, we need that time for that. So that’s where it’s not necessarily who is going to be the best team. It’s who is going to be the healthiest team. And that’s why the training staff, teams that have the best training staff, it’s going to be a huge advantage.”

Dudley thinks that older teams are more adversely impacted by the layoff since early March, since it’s simply easier for younger players to bounce back physically. But the Lakers have other advantages.

“Our advantage is we have LeBron and AD,” he said. “That’s our advantage. So for us it’s to be able to use our size, use our chemistry. No team has an advantage when it comes to that. You’re on a neutral site, neutral court, and hey, I prefer that. I like us on neutral courts now.

“I think chemistry is a huge factor because some of these teams that made trade deadline moves to try to win a championship, they haven’t seen each other as much. We talk on a consistent basis. We know what everyone is doing and we’ve definitely prepared for this moment.”

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