Jared Dudley may not be the most talented player in the league, but he brings a lot to a team with his locker room presence and as a veteran and mentor to young players. One of the biggest roles he played on the Los Angeles Lakers this past season was a mentor to Kyle Kuzma.
In his third season with the Lakers, Kuzma did not have the campaign many were hoping and expecting of him. He was viewed as the team’s potential third star and though that never materialized, Kuzma did show improvements in other facets of his game.
“I’m happy but I’m not satisfied. He can be a lot better,” Dudley said in an exclusive LakersNation.com interview. “He got better defensively, he’s going to have a bigger role for us next year of scoring load, of us expecting more from him.
“The reason I was impressed, young guys get discouraged with less minutes and shot attempts. He wasn’t. He wanted to win a championship. He wasn’t worried about getting paid, he wasn’t worried about numbers. That’s half the battle, so I salute him for that.”
Dudley brings up a great point in that many young players are focused on statistics and can get discouraged when they struggle, especially when looking towards a new contract. But even when Kuzma didn’t play great, he was always playing hard and giving maximum effort which is something many struggle with.
But one thing that has never been questioned is Kuzma’s work ethic and Dudley gave an encouraging update on that front as well. “He didn’t take any time off, he’s been in the weight room, shooting.”
With the season beginning soon, and questions surrounding whether the Lakers veterans will be playing every night at the outset of the season, the Lakers will be reliant on Kuzma to take another step in his development and Dudley believes he can do that despite being in a difficult role for a player of his nature.
“Listen, it’s hard to play with ‘Bron and A.D. when you’re a scorer. They have the ball in their hands a lot. There’s ways to make quicker decisions, give the ball up faster. If you’re in the post, attack, get to the free throw line,” Dudley noted.
“Let’s get that 3-point shooting up to 38%, because he’s very capable of doing that. Defensively, let’s take another growth so you can add five more minutes. Not satisfied, I’m happy with him, you’re a champion. But now, let’s go make yourself a 17-, 18-point scorer, efficient, a better defensive player and let’s lean on you more in playoff time.”
Dudley believes Lakers can withstand short offseason
Dudley isn’t just a believer in Kuzma, but the Lakers as a whole despite seemingly being put in a disadvantage with such a quick turnaround to the start of the 2021 season.
“It’s a disadvantage from a mental (aspect). From a physical standpoint, we’re going to be fine. It’s less recovery time (but) we’re deep,” Dudley said.
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