For a team in any sport to win at the highest-level, it takes execution on the court, but also leadership in the locker room. That's where Jared Dudley made a major impact for the Los Angeles Lakers despite the box score suggesting otherwise.
Fast-forward to today and Dudley has since retired from his playing career and is now an assistant coach for the Dallas Mavericks. How did we get here?
“I thought I was coming back to the Lakers,” Dudley said, via Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times. “This is crazy.”
The impact of Dudley's locker-room leadership has been made apparent in comments ranging from superstars like LeBron James to young players who appreciated his guidance, such as Kyle Kuzma, who recently called Dudley the best teammate he ever had.
There was an expectation from Dudley and the Lakers star players that he would be brought back to the team. He felt his leadership would help given the significant roster turnover the team underwent.
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“No one owed me anything, (the Lakers front office people) 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 (Lakers management) I thanked them, but I told them, you’re valuing youth more than a locker-room presence guy,” Dudley said. “I said, ‘I respect you for doing that, but I think you’re wrong,’”
Dudley embraced his leadership role with the Lakers and embraced different roles to keep everyone happy. as he put it, whether he needed to be a 'guidance counselor' or 'relationship expert', he was the 'middleman' that was the glue that kept the team together.
“When people say I’m a locker room presence, my job was way more than a locker room presence. You’re a guidance counselor, a relationship expert. … I’m the middleman that brings it all together.”
The Mavericks will put Dudley's leadership to full use with Jason Kidd taking over as head coach. He has significant prior experience playing under Kidd so he has strong familiarity with his strengths and weaknesses running a team.
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