Though he didn’t play a lot of minutes, anyone in the locker room would surely agree that veteran Jared Dudley was instrumental to the Los Angeles Lakers’ success over the past two seasons. As such, many assumed he would have a roster spot on the 2021-22 version of the team.
However, it began to be rumored that a return was unlikely. That would become a fact when it was announced that Dudley would be joining the Dallas Mavericks as an assistant coach under their new coach, former Lakers assistant Jason Kidd.
The move came as a surprise to many, including Dudley himself, as he revealed in an interview with 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.”
Dudley would continue on, saying that even the Lakers’ superstar duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis weren’t able to convince the Lakers front office to bring him back:
“Obviously LeBron and A.D. wanted me back,” said Dudley. “But we just couldn’t convince them.”
James’ displeasure with the loss of Dudley was made clear on Twitter as he clearly valued what the veteran brought to the team. But in the end, it is the call of the front office led by Rob Pelinka and Dudley understands and maintains a ton of respect to the franchise for everything they did for him:
“No one owed me anything, Rob and Kurt were honest and upfront, nothing but respect and gratitude to them and Jeanie [Buss], I will be forever thankful for the opportunity they gave me,” Dudley said. “But I did want to come back. I did think I could help the team, especially having so many new players, but I understand they wanted to get younger.”
But even though Dudley understands the Lakers’ desire to get younger, that doesn’t mean he agrees with it:
“I talked to Rob and Kurt, I thanked them, but I told them, you’re valuing youth more than a locker room presence guy,” Dudley said. “I said, ‘I respect you for doing that, but I think you’re wrong,’”
Obviously Dudley is a little biased as he had hoped to return to the Lakers this season, but there is a lot of value in having veterans in the locker room. But even without Dudley, the Lakers have plenty of experience in the likes of Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington, Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony along with, of course, James himself.
The Lakers will definitely miss what Dudley brought to the team, but the franchise still believes they have what it takes to win a championship and time will tell whether that is the case.
James ‘hurt’ at Dudley departure
If anyone was unsure as to how important Dudley was to the Lakers the past couple of seasons, James’ reaction to his departure should have made that clear. James took to Twitter to voice his displeasure, even letting out some expletives.
Though he is obviously happy for his friend, he will miss having Dudley in the Lakers locker room.
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