On Sunday, the Los Angeles Lakers announced that Jared Dudley had suffered a right MCL tear. Since then, Dudley has evaluated his treatment options and decided that surgery isn’t something that he’s interested in at the moment.
“Most torn MCLs, you don’t have surgery, to be honest with you,” Dudley said before the Lakers played the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday. “So for me, right now, my mindset is to not have surgery; it’s to rehab, give my body 3-4 weeks and then reassess in those 3-4 weeks.”
With or without surgery, Dudley’s season is likely over, but he still wants to be around the team, which was the motivating factor in his decision to not have surgery.
“Let’s just be honest: my value to this team is not playing,” Dudley said. “My playing days of contributing at a high level are done. There are times where I can still help (in short minutes), as you saw a couple of times this year and even last year, but for the most part, my value is the locker room, the bus, the plane, the film room, holding guys accountable in practice, getting on guys. Kind of like a coach.
“But the difference for me in not being a coach is I’m in the locker room day-to-day and there are certain things I can say to certain players that maybe a coach couldn’t. So that’s where my value is and that’s one of the reasons I wouldn’t want to get surgery right now. I’d be out 4-6 months and be away from the team for 6-8 weeks at home. That’s something that I’m not ready to do, and something where I feel rehab is going to get me back to the same finish line in a different time period.”
Dudley expressed interesting in becoming an NBA coach earlier this year, and with the relationships he’s built within the Lakers organization over the past two years, he could probably retire today and transition into an assistant coaching career tomorrow if he really wanted to. But while Dudley believes his value is on the bench and in the locker room, he believes he still has more value as a player than a coach.
“When you switch over, and you’re in the front of the bus, and you’re in a different locker room, it changes,” Dudley said. “We’ve got Jason Kidd. I’ll tell you right now, J-Kidd’s relationship is phenomenal with LeBron James. It’s not like my relationship. It’s not like (mine with) Anthony Davis. There’s certain things that I can say to those two that other people can’t. I’ve played. I’ve been with them. I know good habits, I know bad habits.
“Now J-Kidd is a hall of famer, he can say pretty much anything, but to me it’s also your personality. I’m a very outgoing guy, I think I’m very honest and blunt with what I say ... That time will eventually come for me, if it’s either the front office or on the bench, so I want to use this Lakers experience. It’s huge for me for my life after basketball, and knowing how to deal with superstars, dealing with egos, when you go on three or four game losing streaks and how to handle the media and to see how it is in the locker room. I’ve been waiting for that ...
“I’ll be ready for that when that time comes, but like I told you, this is the best job in the world, why would I want to give it up?”
At the age of 35, that time will come sooner rather than later for Dudley, but he’s not going to leaving the NBA until he’s shown the door — and even then, he’ll try and overstay his welcome if he can.
“When it comes down to it, I’m gonna be fine in life after basketball,” Dudley said. “But I’m not willing to rush it. I play with the Lakers. I hang out with LeBron and AD. We do team dinners, drink we won a championship. Why would I want to leave? We drink some of the best wine in the world. What is a better life than this right now? And I know it might sound crazy, but I have huge value.
“I saw a stat the other day, and it was one of the best stats I’ve seen, that Udonis Haslem has played I think 40 minutes in four years (for the Heat). And people say ‘how can that be?’ There’s the reason why that is. It’s because the respect level is different. There is a lot of stuff that he has to handle that the coaching staff cannot handle ... There’s a certain level of respect that a player has when you can hold the locker room.
“So for me, I’ve always said to myself I don’t want an injury to push me out. Sometimes it can be old age, sometimes it can be just timing, so my mindset is to come back, hopefully win a championship and be back next year. But that’s in God’s hands, and if not, I definitely have options.”