It has now been nearly four months since the Los Angeles Lakers last played a game of basketball, which came in the form of a loss to the Brooklyn Nets on March 10.
Since then, while the NBA has been on hiatus during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Lakers have very much stayed in touch. Veteran journeyman Jared Dudley has largely been credited for leading the way.
“It was the group chat, just because the millennials now are text messaging everyone,” he said of keeping communication alive over the past few months. “That’s why I got Instagram, so I could keep in contact and see what everyone is doing.
“For me it was nothing different. I think my natural personality is an outgoing, communication guy,” Dudley said of his leadership style. “Talking about what’s going on, people’s beards, Kuz doing a fashion show in his house because he’s bored and getting a dog. There was so much going on.
“And then there’s a time when you start tightening it up, start getting serious to finish the season, keeping everybody in tuned workout-wise and staying locked in. LeBron is obviously a leader and A.D. leads in his own way. I would say I’m a little more vocal in talking to one through 15. That’s my job.
“I’ve been in this league for a while and mentored a lot of young players in Booker, John Wall and Giannis. I’m one of the rare vets that can speak to one through 15, because I’ve played with guys like Shaq and those who are DNP. I’ve been through it all.”
That has been Dudley’s role all season long, and one he has been proud to have. Dudley is averaging 7.8 minutes per game this season, by far the lowest of his 13-year career. Yet, he has maintained the mantra of being a star in his role, and has done that extremely well. He’s been a mentor to Kyle Kuzma, who has struggled to fit in with the Lakers roster this season, as well as communicating with the whole team in an effective way.
In addition to helping keep the team connected, Dudley also been a sounding board for those concerned with heading to the Walt Disney World bubble in Orlando, Florida. “I would be lying to you if I told you everyone was completely comfortable and had no ill feelings toward how it’s going to be,” he said.
“I think we all know it’s a risk. We all are watching the news and keep seeing the cases in California, Arizona and Florida (rising). We see what’s going on, but we look at it this way. We get tested every other day, if you’re positive then they’ll quarantine us to make sure we’re right. When we get down there we have to take two tests and quarantine 48 hours. And then while we’re out there, we have the best medical experts.
“I keep trying to tell people at the end of the day I don’t think anyone fears death. I think they would think the thing that sucks is they would be quarantined in a little house they know nothing about. We understand the business of basketball and why we have to play. For me, I’m comfortable going there. It’s sad you’re going to miss your family for potentially three months. I think that’s been the difficult part more than anything. But I’m also excited to possibly win a championship.”
What Dudley has done best this season in his off the court role is helping the general public to understand what’s going through the mind of an NBA player. Every team needs a leader like Dudley, as he provides a glue that holds the team together, even during a pandemic. In a season that is going to be unlike anything we’ve ever seen, chemistry could take a team a long way.
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