When Jared Dudley suffered a torn MCL earlier in the season, he opted not to get surgery. While it’s the riskier decision, it also provided him a chance to return to the Los Angeles Lakers lineup, while surgery would have knocked him out for the season, and potentially his career.
After weeks of intensive rehab and recovery, Dudley came back to the court for the Lakers’ regular-season finale against the New Orleans Pelicans. He played just four minutes, but minutes are not something he has cared about since joining the Lakers last season. Instead, he was just ecstatic to be able to play with the playoffs coming up.
Dudley gave some details into his recovery process, explaining just how bad the injury actually was. “It was huge. People don’t really know the details. I had a Grade 3 tear MCL off the bone. So, when I had second and third opinions there were doctors saying that to get surgery I was going to be out four to six months. That would’ve been my career. So when I look back on it at that time and that decision making on what I wanted to do, I wanted to be a part of the team and if I got surgery I would’ve been away from the team for six to eight weeks after having to heal and not being there as a veteran and a leader, especially during a rocky time.
“For me, to get some shots in my knee do some PRP, let it heal and change my diet. Lose 20 pounds to get lighter to get the inflammation out to build my knee up. I’m now at a 100 percent with no pain. I don’t even need to wear a brace, I just do it just because for this year, but for me it’s just all the hard work I put in. The different doctors I trained with. … To be able to come back and play this game it’s huge for me and what I stand for as a vet.”
When he first got injured, Dudley had to grapple with the fact that he could have played his final game before choosing how to proceed. “Any time you get past Year 10. The average NBA career is three and a half years, so obviously, this being my 14th year. But yes, when I first tore my MCL I definitely thought it could’ve been, especially when you hear four to six months.
“I can’t come back and rehab and expect the Lakers are any real team to sign me, but that being said, coming back the way I did showing what I need to do to get done. The staff, Rob Pelinka, Kurt Rambis. Players seeing in practice how I’m moving. People were basically shocked of how well I’m responding. I had no inflammation or pain in my knee, so to be able to come back and just show that just means a lot to me.
“But yeah, you always know it could be your last game. It was special for me to be able to get back. You never want to end your career off an injury and I’m glad I was able to step back on the floor. I don’t care how many minutes it was. One minute, 10 minutes, I’m just glad.”
Lakers fans had been heavily rooting for Dudley to have a successful rehab process in order to get back on the court. Even if he likely won’t see the floor for extended postseason minutes, just having him as an option off the bench, and as a leader, is a huge benefit for L.A.
There’s no telling what will happen with Dudley this offseason. However, based on what happened this year after his injury, it’s clear that the Lakers would welcome him back with open arms if he wanted to stay.
James not concerned after tweaking ankle against Pelicans
Dudley is not the only one who has gone through an extended rehab process with the Lakers this season. After returning from a stretch of 26 missed games due to a high ankle sprain, LeBron James had a scary moment in the fourth quarter.
He tweaked his ankle while landing on another player’s foot, but should be fine moving forward. “Yeah, that’s exactly what it was, it was a tweak. I stepped on [Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s] foot on the way down after the last layup. But I’ll be fine.”
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