Jared Dudley’s departure from the Lakers playing roster was not a surprise given reports leading up to this week’s decision. That Dudley was not retained in any capacity by the Lakers this summer, though, is a more surprising development.
Announced on his own Twitter account, Dudley joined the Mavericks coaching staff alongside former Lakers assistant Jason Kidd. Given how close he had grown with superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Dudley not staying in Los Angeles does come as a moderate surprise.
Bill Plaschke’s piece in the LA Times on Thursday revealed that the Lakers did not offer Dudley a coaching role.
It appears they didn’t want him as a player because they felt that, with their aging team, they need youthful depth. They apparently never discussed the possibility that he would retire and become a coach.
It’s unclear if the Lakers simply did not think Dudley would consider retirement and a coaching position or if the team did not want him as a coach. The interpretation of what was written would suggest it’s the former, but there are reasons the latter could be the case.
While Dudley’s words carried weight in the locker room, those words carry an entirely different type of weight when it’s a coach and not a fellow player saying things. In fact, Dudley provided an example of just that in his interview with Plaschke.
His finest leadership moment occurred after the Lakers suffered a dramatic Game 5 loss to Miami in the 2020 Finals. While coach Frank Vogel had to tread lightly around his exhausted team, Dudley powerfully jumped in everyone’s face and held them accountable for failing to put in a title effort.
“It was the most serious adrenaline film session we ever had, it was the one practice that no one talked to each other, people were mad. … I called them out, I said we can’t have these mistakes,” remembered Dudley. “Frank Vogel has to walk a tight line, but I don’t. I can get on anybody and they know what kind of guy I am and they don’t take it personal.”
The difference in a coach’s voice versus a player’s voice carrying different weights is the main reason Udonis Haslem is still on the Heat’s roster despite playing a total of five games the last two seasons.
There could be other explanations for Dudley leaving for the Mavericks as well. The Lakers’ coaching staff is effectively filled out, though the departures of Lionel Hollins and Jason Kidd both leave openings. Mike Penbernathy filled one of those holes and David Fizdale the other.
Dudley’s role with the Mavericks is a front row coaching staff position, something the Lakers would likely not have been able to offer either. How much that mattered is unknown but it was not a topic the Lakers even broached with the departing Dudley.
In the end, Dudley’s overall departure from the franchise was a surprise, but it’s also one that the Lakers can absorb. With a veteran-laden roster, Dudley’s voice would still have been important, but not as much so this season. The Lakers chose to move on from him, which may have briefly angered James but it’s a move this team will be able to survive.