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Lakers’ Jared Dudley goes off on true reason Suns’ Devin Booker is so good

Devin Booker Suns Kendall Jenner Jared Dudley

Devin Booker has taken his game up more than a few levels since he and Jared Dudley were teammates with the Phoenix Suns. Not surprisingly, the outspoken Los Angeles Lakers free-agent-to-be has a host of theories as to what’s enabled Booker to become an NBA superstar.

During an appearance on J.J. Redick’s “The Old Man and the Three” podcast on Monday, Dudley listed a series of contributing factors to Booker’s improvement, including his physical transformation, his relationship with Kendall Jenner, and his improved passing.

“Booker always was super-talented: Footwork-wise, work ethic, had it all in him, had the swagger,” Dudley said. “He became such a better student of the game, of studying film. If you look at his body now, he now finally has cuts in his body, got serious with his nutrition … In a way, I think him having a girlfriend has helped him. Helped him stay more focused, less out in the nightlife.

“It was his passing ability that was poor,” Dudley added. “He could shoot the ball. The whole big viral video of doubling him during summertime, you remember when Joakim Noah doubled? … Nah, like, you’re going to be doubled … For him to become a better passer and getting his first triple-double…I knew he was going to be an All-Star player, but I just think he took the next step with his body. He’s in phenomenal, phenomenal shape. He’s cut up. The first thing I saw was, looking at his face, I could see his cheekbones. He’s been with the Kardashians, I didn’t know if he had surgery or he lost some weight.”

Booker averaged 3.5 assists per 36 minutes during the two seasons (2016-17) he played with Dudley. His dimes were down this season due to the addition of Chris Paul, but he increased his assists per 36 to 7.0 and 6.5 in 2018-9 and 2019-20, respectively.

Due to his midrange prowess and the work ethic that Dudley is alluding to, Booker’s game has been frequently compared to Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, especially during the Suns’ run to the NBA Finals. However, Booker — a mentee of Kobe’s — rejected that notion during a spot on ESPN’s “The Jump.”

“I know it’s something that everybody has going on right now. I didn’t make that comparison myself. I’ll just leave it at what he’s done for me as a mentor and the advice that he’s left me with. I try to take bits and pieces of his mentality and approach. But I should never be compared to Kobe Bryant.”

In the same chat with Redick, Dudley broke down his singular value to the Lakers locker room, which, in his words, manifests in practice, the film room, and at the gambling table (“camaraderie”).

Dudley, 36, is one of the 10 players who the Lakers have to decide on re-signing. Considering his lack of playing time and the Lakers’ tight cap situation, they have to determine whether Dudley’s locker room contributions are worthy of an active roster spot (a la Udonis Haslem). The Lakers could retain Dudley in a non-player role — perhaps as a special assistant coach or front office consultant.

Dudley has developed tight relationships with LeBron James and Anthony Davis during his tenure in Los Angeles. When asked at exit interviews whether he planned to return to the Lakers, Dudley had a confident outlook: “1,000 percent.”

Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns will have an opportunity to force Game 7 on Tuesday in Milwaukee.