The Los Angeles Lakers fan base was hit with a bit of a surprise this week when it was revealed that Jared Dudley was retiring from playing and took a coaching job with the Dallas Mavericks. Though he wasn’t an impact player on the court, he was a great leader for the team and a fan favorite. Even LeBron James appeared blindsided by the news.
According to Dudley himself, he even thought he was coming back to the team for one more season.
“I thought I was coming back to the Lakers,” Dudley told Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times. “This is crazy.”
For a while, it looked like the plan was for Dudley to return. In fact, he claims that his two superstar former teammates were campaigning for him to come back.
“Obviously LeBron and A.D. (Anthony Davis) wanted me back,” Dudley said. “But we just couldn’t convince them.”
If those two couldn’t convince the Lakers to bring him back, they must have been very committed to moving on.
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Why the Lakers Moved on From Dudley
Dudley did everything right during his two years with the Lakers. He never complained about a lack of playing time and worked hard to help players throughout the team, especially the young ones. He was completely selfless in his approach. However, the Lakers didn’t really have a need for a veteran presence this season.
The team added veterans like Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza and Dwight Howard this offseason. No offense to Dudley, but having those guys around gives the team plenty of veteran leadership. The team is old enough and would be wise to add more young players if possible. He made sure to give his thanks to the Lakers and understood that the team needed more youth.
“No one owed me anything, Rob [Pelinka] and Kurt [Rambis] were honest and upfront, nothing but respect and gratitude to them and Jeanie [Buss], I will be forever thankful for the opportunity they gave me,” Dudley said. “But I did want to come back. I did think I could help the team, especially having so many new players, but I understand they wanted to get younger.”
Dudley Believes Lakers Made a Mistake
Dudley is obviously grateful for his time in Los Angeles but that doesn’t mean he believes they always make the right choices. He actually slightly called out the team for letting him walk.
“I talked to Rob [Pelinka] and Kurt [Rambis], 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,’” Dudley said.
Time will tell if the Lakers made the right call. In the team’s defense, they have plenty of “locker room presence” guys but not a lot of youth. Dudley has every right to be upset but nobody can blame the Lakers. The team is already old enough and could use that roster spot to find the next Alex Caruso or Talen Horton-Tucker as opposed to a proven commodity like Dudley.