The Los Angeles Lakers will see a lot of their players enter free agency this summer — like, more than half of their roster — but Rob Pelinka can rest easy knowing that one of the most important members of the team has already committed to returning. I am talking, of course, about Jared Dudley.
Dudley, who’s coming off of his second year with the Lakers, made it clear during his exit interview on Friday that he’s “1,000%” sure that he’s going to come back in free agency.
“Come on, man,” Dudley said. “They need me, man. They need me like I need them. Come on.”
Dudley said something similar last season, and he found his way back on the 17-man roster, so he must know what he’s doing. The difference between this season and last season, though, is that Dudley, 35, is a year older and a few months removed from suffering a torn MCL.
The Lakers will also have more pressure to add talent at the end of their bench because their season ended in a first-round elimination, in part because of their lack of depth at the forward spots. But Dudley doesn’t view that as a personal obstacle because he believes he’s more equipped to help a team on the court than he’s been in recent years.
“The MCL (tear and rehab) was the best thing for my career,” Dudley said. “Which sounds crazy, but it helped me take a look at my nutrition, and how I rehab, and my dedication in the weight room. I lost 20 pounds, my knee feels better, and while you guys might laugh, I’m out here dunking more than I ever have. So in the sense of that, it’s about your mentality of how you want to attack it.”
That newfound knowledge doesn’t necessarily mean that Dudley will be channeling his inner Magic Johnson and doling out advice to his star teammates on their own conditioning, however.
“I’m not going to tell him (AD) ‘oh, do yoga, do boxing.’ You know how to take care of your body. (LeBron is) a Ferrari, Anthony Davis is Rolls Royce, what do you put in that? You’re not going to an 89 gas in it, you’re going to put the premium tank. So what you put in your body, how you train, how you go about it every day, this is your life. You’re a pro. So those guys, they know how to handle that, they’ve done it, they’re champions, so I’m not worried about that.”
Dudley is also confident that the long offseason will benefit him and his teammates from a physical and mental standpoint. Last season, the Lakers and Miami Heat had the shortest offseasons in NBA history.
“For us, it’s just you get the proper rest, you get the quick turnaround,” Dudley said. “This is like losing in the Western Conference Finals because it’s the beginning of June and we’re going to start back on a normal schedule here in October, but sometimes you need this as an athlete. You need to be able to lose and be able to come back hungrier.
“So for us to come back from that shortened season, did that play a factor (in us losing)? Maybe it did. Who cares? For us, it’s about how hungry you’re going to be, and we need guys in here that are hungry to be able to get a banner. Because when it comes to playing for the Lakers, all that matters is a championship for us.”
Dudley obviously still needs to put a pen to paper, but he certainly sounds like someone who’s confident he’ll be back. We’ll find out whether or not that confidence is misplaced on August 2, when the free agency moratorium starts.