A big reason the Los Angeles Lakers have had so much success this season is their chemistry and players’ abilities to understand their roles.
Perhaps no one has epitomized that more than Jared Dudley, who is in his 13th NBA season but has accepted a smaller role since joining the Lakers. Even though Dudley hasn’t seen a lot of time on the floor, he has been invaluable holding the locker room together and mentoring the organization’s young players.
One of those is Kyle Kuzma, who has had to accept a bench role this season in his first competing for a championship, seeing his numbers decrease in the process.
Dudley recently discussed his relationship with Kuzma and stated that he is one of the players he has kept in touch with most while the NBA has been on hiatus.
“I’m going to be honest with you, I take it as pride to be equally balanced with my teammates. The first person who comes to mind is Kuzma,” Dudley said. “I’m really cool with Kuz, he’s the one I thought I could help the most, he’s the one I thought has the most potential to really take us over the top.
“So for me it’s trying to balance with him how to develop his game on a championship team. It’s very tough. We want him to reach his potential but during that, we can’t have wasted possessions.
“Especially with LeBron and A.D. So for me it’s letting him know, ‘Your time is coming, this is what you can improve on while you’re on the floor or not on the floor with them, and don’t look at stats.’”
Dudley revealed his relationship and admiration of Kuzma started before this season on the Lakers. “I saw Kuzma when he was in college at Utah. I trained at Impact every year in the summertime. I actually called my agent to recruit Kuzma,” Dudley explained.
“I was like, ‘Who is this kid killing these pros?’ He signed with my agency, so I already had a relationship somewhat. And then I went through my hanging out with all the young kid phases, where I had D’Angelo, Devin Booker. So when I wanted to come to L.A., Booker already told Kuzma how I was with him, D’Lo told him how I was in Brooklyn. So it was just an easy transition hanging out with him.
“I always told Booker, ‘This is how you get a max contract. This is what you have to do.’ Kuzma’s route is different on a championship team. He can’t do what Booker and D’Lo have done, but he can still be an All-Star caliber player. He just has to go about it a different way, which is what I’m trying to teach him. It’s hard for a 23-, 24-year-old playing for the Lakers, in Hollywood, with so much prestige, to want to be able to pick and choose your spots.”
If the Lakers want to win a championship when the NBA resumes its season later this month in Orlando, Florida, then Kuzma will likely have to play a big part in it.
Dudley being present to fill his role and help keep Kuzma focused on the task at hand not only should bode well for the immediate future but in years ahead as well.
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!