When asked in June if he would return for a third year with the Los Angeles Lakers, Jared Dudley did not hesitate.
“1000% yes,” the popular veteran said then.
But months after calling Dudley called his own shot, and several weeks after free agency began, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports is reporting that Dudley’s time with the Lakers is likely over as a casualty of the team’s roster crunch:
And with the intention of signing two more players and leaving a roster spot open, it means Jared Dudley’s two-year tenure with the organization will likely come to an end.
That leaves some room for this to change, but it certainly appears as though the proverbial writing is on the wall. Or at least on the internet.
And although even the 36-year-old Dudley would admit he provides very little on-court value at this stage in his career, the journeyman forward has developed a reputation as a beloved teammate and leader in the Lakers’ locker room. Most importantly, he has the trust and friendship of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, as well as new addition Russell Westbrook. Considering that he had reportedly helped take part in recruiting Westbrook, it was expected that Dudley would return:
.@BA_Turner adds here that there was a fourth player at the now-famous dinner meeting between LeBron, AD and Russ where they all decided to play together: Jared Dudley was in attendance as well.— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) August 1, 2021
I would be shocked if he is not back. https://t.co/txcqqMHSCb
And Dudley’s public appearances this offseason did little to dissuade the idea that he was returning. He was next seen after the season when he joined James, former teammate J.R. Smith and
walking meme rapper Drake at Bronny James’ sophomore season debut for Sierra Canyon in the CIF Southern Section Open Division championship game. LeBron also traveled with Dudley to Puerto Rico just days before the release of “Space Jam: A New Legacy” to celebrate the latter’s 36th birthday, per Dudley’s Instagram.
James and Dudley also went out to lunch with outgoing Laker Kyle Kuzma in San Diego right after the latter was traded for Westbrook. He was later seen working out with LeBron, and Dudley’s son attended the team’s summer league game alongside James and Westbrook. All signs were pointing towards a return:
LeBron and Dudley offseason workout update pic.twitter.com/O0QbZBOMH3— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) August 8, 2021
But while Dudley previously said he wanted to play at least one more year before retiring, it sounds like the Lakers have decided to move on from his time with the team as a pseudo player-coach. He played fewer than 100 total minutes last season largely due to an MCL tear, though he endeared himself to teammates even further by refusing season-ending surgery, losing 20 pounds and rehabbing himself back into shape by the playoffs.
He still couldn’t really get on the court, however, and with an aging roster, the Lakers may have wanted to prioritize getting bench players who could actually step up and play if the team needed injury or load management insurance at the back end of the bench. If this really is the end of Dudley’s time in L.A., he will certainly be missed in the locker room, but with few young players for him to mentor, the team will just have to hope that their motley crew of veterans have their eyes focused enough on the prize to make up for whatever chemistry is lost due to his absence.