The Los Angeles Lakers signed Jared Dudley to a one-year, $2.6 million deal while they play the waiting game for Kawhi Leonard — who is still currently deciding between the Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Toronto Raptors.
While it seems unlikely, Dudley and Leonard share one thing in common as they are both are from California.
Dudley was born and raised in San Diego, CA and although that’s quite far from Los Angeles, he has no qualms referring to it as ‘Lakers Nation.’ Leonard was born in Los Angeles, went to high school in Riverside, and played college basketball at San Diego State University.
It’s perhaps because of this connection that the two — during the 2011 NBA lockout — worked out together. Leonard was playing with the San Antonio Spurs at the time and joined Dudley, Richard Jefferson, and Chase Budinger in workouts, via Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
“We trained a lot during the lockout. He was down with the Spurs with Richard Jefferson and Chase Budinger. We would do a lot of two-on-twos and three-on-threes and worked out. And to see his game blossom, I would’ve never guessed it.”
After sharing this story, Dudley went into their California connection. He told Wojnarowski about the one major thing that all California basketball players share:
“When you’re a California kid, you dream about playing in California. Certain places… you’re in Philly, Nebraska, Texas, people don’t want to play at home. Sometimes it’s like that, you see it with New York. Kyrie, yes, wanted to play there, but you see a lot of other guys shying away from that. But California, everyone wants to play in California that’s from here. The weather is the best you can get, it has everything to offer.”
Dudley’s unlikely connection with Leonard and his full-blown recruitment of him since joining the Lakers are perhaps things that the latter could appreciate.
Should Leonard choose the Lakers, he knows he’ll have someone on the team who grew up in a similar place and shared similar aspirations, even if their career trajectories are immensely different.
It’s not likely that this was the reasoning behind the signing of Dudley, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. It’s a nice addition to what Dudley already brings to the table both on and off the court. It will be interesting to see if it can help sway Leonard to make a decision in the coming days.