No one expects Jared Dudley to be the Lakers’ most impactful offseason acquisition on the basketball court, not by a long shot. At age 34 (happy birthday, Jared!), Dudley’s best playing days are behind him, but that doesn’t mean he can’t bring value as a veteran teammate.
Dudley has been a vocal locker room presence at his last few stops, and the Bucks and Nets in particular raved about his leadership. Having been around the league, Dudley is eager to bring his particular expertise to the Lakers in their championship pursuit, as he told Adrian Wojnarowski on “The Woj Pod”:
“You’re gonna have to go through the struggles, you’re gonna have to go through the fights... The best teams fight. Jordan hitting someone, you know. You should expect the drama. But it’s how you handle it. I’m not someone who hides behind it. You know, you talk, you move on.
“So for me to help with the locker room, I wanna ease pressure off LeBron where the only thing he’s thinking about is basketball. When it comes to Anthony Davis, when it comes to being another coach on the floor, if it’s in practice helping (Kyle) Kuzma, what I see in film, what I see his adjustments could be, if it’s bringing energy however you can.”
Dudley is definitely more extroverted than several of the players from the Lakers’ roster last season, and that could be an asset for new head coach Frank Vogel. The Lakers will assuredly have a lot of drama to deal with, and Dudley’s willingness to take that on means his teammates won’t have to bear that burden.
He plans on being the best teammate possible on the court as well as he ages into the enforcer period of his career. Dudley came to the defense of his young teammate Jarrett Allen when Joel Embiid pushed Allen during the Nets-Sixers first-round series, and was ejected as a result. But he believes in going to to bat for his team, especially if it protects the players who need to be playing more than he does:
“That’s not technically my personality. But I am, as a high-IQ basketball player, I see what the team needs. For that young team [the Nets], they needed to know the type of intensity you need to play with. A man’s elbowing you and pushing you down, doing cheap shots, you gotta stand your ground. And so I’m teaching these young guys, ‘hey for one, when he does that, you gotta let him know or he’s gonna keep doing it. I don’t care if he says it’s an accident or not. He needs to feel the team. You both get flagrants, if you get a technical, that’s money well spent.’ So for this team, I look at it. I don’t go into it with any mindset. I look and see what it needs to be.
“But best believe, if someone’s doing something to Anthony Davis or LeBron James, I’ll be the first one to step up. That is my role. I always told everyone this, every guy is someone who needs to protect the franchise. When I was with Giannis, when I was with [Devin] Booker, John Wall, Bradley Beal, it always happens in different phases. That’s just a certain role. So for this team, you want to play clean, you want to play fun. It’s all about gelling. Usually the teams who have the most fun and come together, they usually win at the end.”
The closest thing the Lakers had to an enforcer last year was Brandon Ingram, but he is now a New Orleans Pelican. Ingram was also far too valuable to lose to suspension, as they Lakers discovered at the start of the season. Dudley should be able to seamlessly step into that role, and he probably has a better handle on his limbs than Ingram did.
Dudley still plans on contributing as a player, and like so many of the other offseason signings, he was brought to the Lakers for his ability to shoot. The 12-year veteran is a career 39.2% 3-point shooter, though that has fallen over the last three seasons. Still, he knows what his role will be once he takes the floor for Los Angeles:
“Obviously, you gotta hit shots in this league. This is pressure. And that’s why I respect Anthony Davis. Not only did this man take less — he took less — he turned down a supermax to come down here to want to win and to take on the pressure.”
Dudley is certainly not shy about why he joined the Lakers and what he believes he can offer to this team. In order for the Lakers to reach their full potential, they will need contributions from up and down the roster. What Dudley provides is different than what anyone else on the team can bring, and that’s what makes him a strong addition to this organization.