Jared Dudley knew when he signed with the Lakers that his off-court contributions might be more meaningful than his impact on the court. As a 34-year-old veteran of 13 years in the NBA, his mind and locker room presence have begun to eclipse his basketball productivity.
But Dudley remains invaluable for how he contributes to team chemistry. He has been a mentor to younger players in the past, a role he took on once again for Kyle Kuzma this season, and he’s always available for spot minutes when there are injuries, foul trouble, or a coach is simply looking for a player to settle the team down.
That means Dudley had to develop real on-the-court chemistry with his teammates in Los Angeles. The Lakers got that process started during the offseason with LeBron James’ pick-up games, and in an interview with Michael Pina of SB Nation, Dudley revealed there was one specific detail he needed to work through with the team’s frontcourt players.
“When I got here I’d turn the ball over throwing to our centers because they expected a lob,” Dudley said. “I don’t really throw lobs, I’m more of a bounce passer.”
Dudley solved his problem by initiating conversations with LA’s big men, verbalizing his own in-game habits so that everyone could get on the same page.
Anecdotally, I can never remember Dudley throwing a lob pass — Chris Paul, he is not — so Dudley’s self-assessment of his distribution tracks. Per NBA Stats, he only made 16 passes to Lakers centers this season, three of which resulted in assists. That is an incredibly small sample size to work with, but if you’ll indulge me, let’s check the tape to see how Dudley got on the same page with JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard.
Here Dudley is getting McGee two dunks.
And then a hook shot for Howard.
It appears Dudley and his bigs achieved a compromise over the course of the season. There are no lobs or bounce passes in these clips, because they met somewhere in the middle: a good old-fashioned chest pass.
Dudley is still a bounce-pass enthusiast when it comes to the Lakers backcourt, but he wouldn’t be a good teammate if he didn’t adjust to the habits of the other players on the roster. It would probably be asking too much of Dudley to start throwing lob passes at this stage of his career, especially considering Howard’s present-day vertical jump, but a chest pass gets the ball just high enough so that the team can avoid turnovers.
Chemistry has been difficult to achieve around the league, as Pina notes, but players like Dudley, who communicate nonstop, are essential to working through those challenges. It’s part of why the Lakers are one of the most close-knit teams in the league.