Veteran NBA forward Jared Dudley appears prepared to retire as a player, having reportedly agreed to become an assistant coach on Jason Kidd‘s Mavericks staff. However, Dudley tells Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times that his first choice this summer would’ve been to return to the Lakers as a player.
“I thought I was coming back to the Lakers,” Dudley said. “This is crazy.”
As Plaschke explains, Dudley would have been willing to accept a non-guaranteed contract, and veteran Lakers like LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook wanted him to return (James published a series of tweets expressing his dismay over Dudley’s departure). However, Los Angeles appears to be prioritizing filling out its last couple open roster spots with younger players.
“I talked to (executives) Rob (Pelinka) and Kurt (Rambis), I thanked them, but I told them, ‘You’re valuing youth more than a locker room presence guy,'” Dudley told Plaschke. “I said, ‘I respect you for doing that, but I think you’re wrong.’
“… My job was way more than a locker room presence,” Dudley added. “You’re a guidance counselor, a relationship expert. … I’m the middle-man that brings it all together.”
Even if the Lakers didn’t want to re-sign Dudley as a player, it would have made sense for the team to offer him a spot on its coaching staff. Perhaps Dudley preferred to join Kidd in Dallas, but Plaschke’s story makes it sound as if the Lakers didn’t discuss the possibility of the 36-year-old retiring and becoming a coach.
With Dudley no longer in the picture, the Lakers continue to consider how to fill out the openings on a 15-man roster whose only returning players are James, Davis, Talen Horton-Tucker, and Marc Gasol.
“No one owed me anything, Rob and Kurt were honest and upfront, nothing but respect and gratitude to them and (team owner) Jeanie (Buss), I will be forever thankful for the opportunity they gave me,” Dudley told Plaschke. “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.”