(Erica Rodriguez/Los Angeles Lakers)
Lakers Set to Benefit from Jared Dudley, On and Off the Court
When the Lakers signed Jared Dudley early in free agency, there was a collective nod within the NBA community.
Yup, that made sense, as Dudley can help the Lakers both on and off the court.
Between the lines, his 7.7 career points, 3.3 boards and 1.4 assists in 23.2 minutes aren’t so much the point, though the 12-year veteran does own a healthy 39.2 career 3-point percentage (863 career makes).
His ability to hit shots is key, but Dudley’s known best for his intelligence, which is ideal for playing off two superstar players like LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Another place Dudley is valuable: with us on the media side. Below are some Dudley quotes from his initial conference call with selected Lakers media folk, with a comment from me to follow:
Dudley on why it made sense for him to join the Lakers: “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. 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.”
My thought: Dudley’s being modest with his “pretty good” … he’s as good as it gets in the NBA from an IQ standpoint. That’s important with James – speaking of super high basketball IQ – running the show, and Davis occupying so much attention that players who know where to stand, when to make the extra pass, the appropriate time to cut to the basket or how to best set a weak side screen increase their value. On D, Dudley can run things with his voice; he’s seen most of the offensive systems out there, knows the personnel and knows how to direct his teammates.
Dudley on his impact with younger players on other teams: “Over my last four or five years I’ve been on mostly younger teams, so I’ve done a pretty good job of helping develop the youth when it comes to Giannis (Antetokounmpo). I actually started over him, and told (then Bucks head coach) Jason Kidd – who’s one of our assistant coaches – to start him over me. Devin Booker, John Wall … and then this year D’Angelo Russell. My primary for me would be Kyle Kuzma. We play the same position, have the same agent, I see so much potential in him and a guy that we’re going to need to reach our goal.
MT: That question to Dudley was actually asked about Davis and how he might impact or help him, but Dudley opened by talking about those young players. The Lakers now possess a veteran roster, but Kuzma just turned 24, and can absolutely benefit from some of Dudley’s experience. Dudley continued that for Davis, it’s more relaying “what I see out there on the floor when guys are giving him different looks.” Dudley remembered frustrating Davis one time by fronting him and denying the ball, and concluded, “I expect a huge year from him, an MVP candidate type season.”
Dudley on leadership on a veteran team vs. a young team: “When you’re on younger teams, it’s a bit (of a) teaching tool. For me, a leader on a young team, it’s watching film on the planes, on the bus rides having conversations about life and about the business of basketball so you can get a trust factor. When you’re on a veteran team, it’s having professionalism, and also just doing your job. When you do your job on the court, that gives you more of a trust off the court. You’re not telling LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Danny Green something they don’t know. So to get to know them and get the chemistry level, it’s more of a trust. From a leadership standpoint it really happens more in practice. It happens at minicamp. When you’re at movies, dinners. And so, it’s more trying to get to know you as a person, as a friend, and then when it comes to the basketball and they respect you, and they understand where you’re coming from as a person, they can kind of hear your advice a little better. It could be shot selection at a certain time, time of possession when it comes to slowing the ball down and getting a good shot instead of rushing a couple shots … It’s easier on a veteran team … I’ve been able to do both throughout my career, but I think every player loves to have more of a championship contender team to be able to play with.”
MT: Dudley gets it.
Dudley on having the confidence to be a leader without having been an All-Star: “I went four years to school. I think it’s just your knowledge. I think that if you compare it to a student in the classroom who gets good grades, and they can be able to tutor other kids and help them out. I wasn’t really built for athleticism or speed, I always had to rely on my mind and my instincts … I’ve always been a believer of taking a little bit of knowledge of every great player I played with. So, Steve Nash, the positive energy. In life I always look at the glass half full than half empty, so when it comes to positive energy, people can kind of feel your vibe when you’re in the room, and how sincere you are when you’re on the bench clapping it up for a teammate, they know when you’re just clapping just do to it and they know it when you really care for that person. I just think it’s you being a genuine person, people respecting and then having a little bit of knowledge of what you’re talking about and seeing when it happens. And with every good leader, you have to be able to take criticism and say when you’ve messed, up, but I’ve been able to do that, so people get to see both the good and the bad.
MT: It’s not easy for people to be self-aware, and self-confident enough to know how they can best help others. That’s what’s so valuable about Dudley, though, and why teammates listen to him. He knows how to handle most any situation that might arise for a basketball team, and can thus focus on how to help raise that bar for his teammates. But of course, he still has to be effective enough on the court for that impact to be felt by players, and to differentiate himself from a coach.
Dudley on how GM Rob Pelinka built the team: “The roster was very well put together. Right after the Kawhi decision, Danny Green, to be able to get a multiple-time champion, a huge 3-point threat. A guy Quinn Cook who’s young, because it’s always good to have versatility on a roster when it comes to athleticism, when it comes to age, Quinn Cook hasn’t even come close to his prime, but you see his confidence when he played for the Warriors, his shot selection with wanting to shoot big shots in big stages of the Finals and different times throughout the playoffs. Getting a guy like Avery Bradley who’s in the prime of his career when it comes to athleticism and defensively, is elite by his peers – Kyrie Irving saying he’s the hardest guys to ever defend him. Guys like myself. And then you get guys like Boogie Cousins, a former All-Star, a lot to prove, someone who plays with a chip on his shoulder. I feel like every team has to have a guy who gets under people’s skin … you have to have those guys to be able to mix it up at times.”
MT: On the court, LeBron James knows basically everything that’s happening at all times, and is looking past his own defender to see what’s coming next. Kobe Bryant used to similarly dissect everything that was happening. That’s pretty important for a superstar. But it’s helpful when a role player can understand personnel around the NBA as Dudley demonstrated in quickly breaking down his fellow free agent acquisitions. Some role players are experts at their role, and stick to their assignments, but part of Dudley’s expertise is what’s going on everywhere else on the court. A theoretical example: Instead of Dudley just spotting up in the corner and waiting for LeBron to drive and kick to him, he’s going to know how his defender likes to play the weak side, and make a cut to the basket at the right time to get a layup.
Dudley on one consideration in joining the Lakers, after first discussing championship aspirations due to the roster: “Let’s be honest, the Lakers brand. It’s probably the biggest brand in all of sports. You put them and the Yankees … since I’ve been a Laker, my one week of existence when it comes to social media, it’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It just shows you how big the brand is.”
MT: Shoutout in advance to Dudley for providing us with smart, interesting commentary throughout the season … the schedule comes out in a couple of weeks!
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