Jared Dudley wanted to return to the Los Angeles Lakers for a 15th NBA season. LeBron James and Anthony Davis did, too. The Lakers' front office felt differently, and now Dudley is an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks.
Dudley spoke to Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times about his surprising departure from the Lakers and transition into full-time coaching. Dudley claims that, despite his locker room value and close relationships with LeBron, Davis, and Russell Westbrook, the Lakers' front office — specifically, Rob Pelinka and Kurt Rambis — have other ideas for the final roster spots.
“I thought I was coming back to the Lakers. This is crazy,” the 36-year-old said. “Obviously LeBron and A.D. wanted me back. But we just couldn’t convince them.”
Dudley expressed his gratitude to the Lakers and said he understands the roster needs to get younger. With or without Dudley, the Lakers will begin the 2021-22 season as one of the oldest — and most accomplished — teams in NBA history.
“No one owed me anything, Rob and Kurt 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.”
“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,’”
In exit interviews, Dudley gave himself a “one thousand percent” chance of returning to Los Angeles, despite shifting to a Udonis Haslem-esque player-coach role for the past two seasons. Apparently, the Lakers “never discussed the possibility” of making Dudley a full-time coach, Plaschke writes.
James was clearly caught off-guard by the news of Dudley's retirement. Upon seeing reports of his move to Dallas, LeBron couldn't hold back his raw displeasure.
Excuse my language but still one hurt!! For many reasons that you wouldn’t understand. 🤦🏾♂️🤦🏾♂️🤦🏾♂️🤦🏾♂️🤦🏾♂️
— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 24, 2021
Dudley appeared in 57 games over two seasons with the Lakers. However, he formed a tight bond with James and Davis and was present at their recruitment dinner with Westbrook in July.