While he rarely was much of an on-court contributor, Jared Dudley became a valuable locker room leader during his two seasons with the Lakers, earning the trust and friendship of both LeBron James and Anthony Davis. So it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Dudley would run it back for year three with James and Davis, especially after he was reportedly part of the dinner where the Lakers’ two incumbent superstars successfully recruited Russell Westbrook back to join them.
Dudley also popped up alongside James in various social media posts throughout the summer, and his son, Justus, even made an appearance alongside James and Westbrook when they took in a Las Vegas Summer League game.
But after the Lakers loaded up on veterans elsewhere to fill out their rotation, they chose not to bring Dudley back. That was a shock to many, including Dudley himself, as he told Bill Plaschke of The L.A. Times:
“I thought I was coming back to the Lakers,” said Dudley, 36, in a phone interview. “This is crazy.”
“Obviously LeBron and AD wanted me back,” said Dudley. “But we just couldn’t convince them.”
Dudley will instead become an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks, where he will reunite with former Lakers assistant coach Jason Kidd, who was hired as the head coach there earlier this summer.
While the decision to not bring Dudley back makes sense on paper, especially with several other forwards in their late 30s such as Trevor Ariza and Carmelo Anthony already on the roster, it will be worth monitoring what the Lakers’ locker room chemistry will be like in his absence, as the team will again try to integrate several new veteran additions for the third straight season.
It’s especially notable that James and Davis lobbied for the Lakers to bring him back — and were unsuccessful. It’s not exactly a secret that those two are heavily involved with the Lakers’ personnel moves. There are rarely any rumors of a roster decision going against their wishes.
That said, at least James and Davis can take some solace in the fact that Dudley has seemingly landed on his feet. The grizzled veteran — who was much more of a coach than a player during his time with the Lakers anyway — now gets to hold that official title with a front-of-bench position alongside Kidd.
The Lakers, for their part, filled out the lead assistant coach spots on Frank Vogel’s staff several weeks ago, soon after the departures of Kidd and Lionel Hollins. They reportedly never offered Dudley a formal coaching role.