After 14 seasons playing in the NBA—the last two with the Los Angeles Lakers—journeyman Jared Dudley has decided to transition into coaching. A first-round pick back in 2007, Dudley has enjoyed a long career and finally won a championship with the Lakers during the 2019-2020 season.
Now, Dudley will join former Lakers assistant and current Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd:
While joining Kidd and the Mavericks for the next stage of his career makes a lot of sense, it was not an orchestrated decision. Dudley spent the offseason believing that he would return to Los Angeles.
"I thought I was coming back to the Lakers," Dudley said in an interview with Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times. "This is crazy."
While the 36-year-old wasn't a heavy contributor for the Lakers—he averaged 7.8 minutes and 1.3 points—he was a valued veteran and locker-room presence.
LeBron James loved having Dudley on his team.
"I've been fortunate enough to play with some real, real true professionals when it comes to that role and guys that are stars in their role, and Dudz is another one of those guys that whatever the team needs—I mean literally, whatever the team needs—he is ready for whatever both on and off the floor," James said back in January.
According to Dudley, both James and Anthony Davis were hoping to bring him back for another run—though ultimately, the decision fell on vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka and senior advisor Kurt Rambis.
"Obviously LeBron and A.D. wanted me back, but we just couldn't convince them," Dudley said, per Plaschke. "No one owed me anything, Rob and Kurt were honest and upfront, nothing but respect and gratitude to them and [president] Jeanie [Buss]."
The decision to let Dudley go was not mutual, and Dudley believes that L.A. erred in prioritizing youth this offseason.
"I did want to come back," Dudley said, per Plaschke. " ... I talked to Rob and Kurt, I thanked them, but I told them, you're valuing youth more than a locker room presence guy. I said, 'I respect you for doing that, but I think you're wrong,'"
"Youth" has not been a term thrown around much this offseason regarding the Lakers. James is 36 years old, trade acquisition Russell Westbrook is 32, Wayne Ellington is 33 and free-agent additions Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard are 37 and 35, respectively.
The Lakers do have the 28-year-old Davis, 26-year-old Kendrick Nunn and 20-year-old Talen Horton-Tucker, though.
However, Dudley has been around longer than most, and his player-coach role with Los Angeles certainly gave him the air of an elder statesman. According to Dudley, that role would be invaluable for a team with championship aspirations.
"Frank Vogel has to walk a tight line, but I don't. I can get on anybody and they know what kind of guy I am and they don't take it personal," Dudley said, per Plaschke.
While Dudley wouldn't have played a significant role for the Lakers on the court this season, he would have been a tremendous presence off the court, in the locker room and on the bench. Losing him is a gamble, and we'll find out soon enough whether it pays off for Los Angeles.