When NBA teams start officially signing free agents on Nov. 22, don’t be surprised if the Lakers are inking Jared Dudley to a new deal. The veteran forward has already said that he’ll do anything to come back and defend his first championship — even if it means going to general manager Rob Pelinka’s house and begging for a contract — and he certainly sounds confident that the team feels similarly about him.
During his recent appearance on “The Lakers Nation Podcast,” Dudely allowed for the possibility that he won’t be brought back, but also made his case for a roster spot.
“You never know what (the future) holds, but it’s just such a perfect marriage between me and the Lakers. It’s a championship team, and you need veteran experience on the bench. I’m in the later part of my career where it’s like having another coach on the bench, but at the same time if you look at the analytics side — if you’re big into analytics — you look at my plus-minus, you look at my defensive rating, offensive rating when I’m in there, I can still play.
“Now, on this team I don’t need to because we have better players than me, but for a team that is going to miss guys throughout the year through resting, through whatever, potentially corona, it’s good to have vets towards the end to be able to help out.”
Putting aside how dystopian “whatever, potentially corona” is as an explanation for why players may miss games this season outside the safety of an NBA bubble, in a season that will feature tons of load management (and possible illness), Dudley isn’t wrong that the Lakers may need guys they can count on to do their part in spurts while also being just fine if they don’t play. And we already know Dudley can fill said role, because he did so to a T last season.
That doesn’t mean he’ll necessarily be back with the Lakers. Dudley was reliable when he did get on the court last season and can still shoot the ball, but the team may also feel as though they can find an upgrade in free agency. Or, with Dudley set to turn 36 next year, they may simply decide they just want younger legs.
But if they do want a veteran of Dudley’s skills, he’d welcome a return with open arms:
“I would love to be back with the Lakers. In the back of my mind I expect it, but you just never know how business goes. I mean, I thought I could have gone back to Brooklyn (last summer). Brooklyn offered me, but I chose the Lakers instead. I wanted to go to the Lakers, but I didn’t know if the Lakers wanted me. So stuff happens at the end, but I’m from California, we just won a championship, you would think that not only myself, but the Lakers, they want to bring back most guys. Sometimes it’s a business, you try to improve the team, but when it comes to the chemistry we had, you don’t want to mess too much with it.”
Dudley was one of the main ingredients in the Lakers’ vaunted team chemistry he mentions, and in what figures to be another trying season, the Lakers could do a lot worse than a veteran who can still defend and shoot, never needs the ball, and doesn’t mind sitting out plenty of games while helping the team have the most cohesive locker room in the NBA.
Maybe the Lakers feel like they can find an upgrade who can play more frequently, but for their 14th or 15th man a bunch of playing isn’t likely to be necessary — outside of tons of injuries — anyway. What Dudley brings may be more useful at the end of the bench, and we’ll find out if the front office agrees when free agency opens in about two weeks.
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