The last time the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns met in the playoffs was in the 2010 Western Conference Finals when Kobe Bryant led L.A. to a 4-2 series win on the way to the franchise’s 16th NBA Championship.
Coincidentally, there is a member of the current Lakers team who was around for that series, as a young Jared Dudley was an important player off the bench for those Suns.
The series itself has been somewhat forgotten thanks to the epic Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals that followed it, but it was a very close series that could’ve gone the other way if a couple of plays had gone the other way. Metta World Peace’s buzzer-beater in Game 5 gave the Lakers a 3-2 series lead, and Bryant slammed the door shut with a 37-point performance in Game 6.
Dudley recently reflected on that series in an interview with Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group, saying that Bryant proved he was above anyone the Suns had to throw at him:
“It was the most intense series I’ve ever been a part of, and you really felt hopeless,” Dudley said. “He was just unstoppable. As good as Steph (Curry) is at shot-making, with Kobe it was even more difficult with all the hands in his face. That Western Conference finals, he’s killing us all, then he’s smacking (Phoenix coach) Alvin Gentry’s butt, letting us know, ‘I’m on a different level than y’all.’ And he was.”
In that series, Bryant averaged 33.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 8.3 assists while shooting 52.1% from the field and 43.2% from 3-point range. Bryant was in the zone and he knew it and smacking the butt of then-Suns coach Alvin Gentry after hitting the dagger to clinch the series was proof of.
These experiences are what make Dudley such a respected and valuable member of the Lakers’ locker room today. He has seen and experienced so much throughout his career and is very honest in his assessments which allows him to speak up when necessary and everyone listens.
There aren’t many people left in the league who got to experience the greatness of Kobe Bryant firsthand, but Dudley is one of them and he remembers that time vividly.
Dudley proud to be back on the court after MCL injury
Because of the serious injuries to superstars Anthony Davis and LeBron James, Dudley’s MCL injury went somewhat under the radar. But Dudley was able to suit up just before the regular season ended and that meant a lot to the veteran forward.
“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 […] To be able to come back and play this game it’s huge for me and what I stand for as a vet.”
Dudley understands that he is near the end of his career and may not have many games left so getting some minutes this season was truly special to him.
“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.”
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