When asked about what it’s like having 13-year veteran Jared Dudley on his squad as the Lakers left for the Orlando bubble, Quinn Cook got straight to the point.
“Dudley is one of the best teammates that anybody has ever had,” he declared.
Cook is far from the first player to say something similar about Dudley this season for the 49-14 Lakers, who built a 5.5-game lead in the West in part due to smart, committed play from a group of veterans that support stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Dudley described his approach on media day back in October:
Dudley has appeared in 40 games, averaging 7.8 minutes as an end-of-the-bench option when Frank Vogel needs him. But when he was on the floor, he hit 16 of his 34 3-point attempts (47.1 percent to lead the team in the small sample size), including a big three to help secure a win at Brooklyn on Jan. 23, when he scored eight points with five boards.
A heady defender who knows exactly where to be and when, Dudley actually led the team in defensive rating with a stellar 97.5 mark, albeit in that small sample size of 311 minutes.
When Lakers VP of Basketball Ops Rob Pelinka signed Dudley, he knew what he was getting: a veteran who can still be trusted to play when needed, but will offer the team a lot when he’s on the bench, at practice or on the team plane.
“The pitch was basically having another veteran presence in the locker room, a guy (with) a pretty good basketball IQ going into my 13th season, and then, another shooter,” said Dudley. “Any time you have those two dominant players, you’re going to need spacing and shooting, and any time you have guys that can think on the fly and have had playoff experience, I think I can help any roster.”
Dudley has taken a particular interest in helping Kyle Kuzma, one of L.A.’s few young players, develop, but he can also speak directly and honestly to LeBron or AD if something needs to be conveyed.
“I’m really cool with Kuz,” he said. “He’s the one I think I can help the most, he’s the one who has the most potential to take us over the top, so it’s trying to balance, how do you develop your game but still not take away from a championship team. It’s very tough.
“I’m vocal on talking 1 through 15 (on the roster). That’s my job. I’ve been in the this league for a while, I’ve mentored a lot of young players – (Devin) Booker, John Wall, Giannis (Antetokounmpo) – so I’m one of the rare vets that can speak 1 through 15 because I’ve played with guys like Shaq, and guys that get DNP’s. I’ve been through it all.”
The fact that Dudley is still a positive when he gets into a game, even if for only eight minutes, makes his words carry more weight with his teammates.
Leadership, positive team energy and knowledge are even more important in the unprecedented bubble situation, and given that, you definitely want Jared Dudley on your side.