Jared Dudley has been in the NBA for quite some many years and has found himself in many different roles over that time. He started his career with the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2007-08 season — still early in the team’s expansion history. Later he found himself playing alongside Steve Nash on multiple run-and-gun teams with the Phoenix Suns. After bouncing around on a number of one-year stints over the last few years, Dudley is now in the second year of his return to the Phoenix Suns. Although his statistics are down almost all the way across the board, Dudley spoke to Basketball Insiders about his role as a veteran mentor to younger players.
“I think when I came here a couple of years ago it was to teach [the younger players] how to be pros, teach them on and off the floor,” Dudley told Basketball Insiders.
Dudley then reflected on the fact that he has occupied this role for some time.
“I think that through my knowledge and wisdom that I’ve helped [the young players] out and that is something that I can continue to do,” Dudley told Basketball Insiders. “I mean every NBA team is getting younger by the year and teams are looking for vets to help out.”
The most successful teams in the league have at least a few veteran players ready to share their wisdom and lessons learned with the younger players on the roster. Dudley quickly pointed to the average age of his teammates when explaining why the Suns had lost so handily in a recent loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles.
“[W]e’re one of the youngest teams in the league,” Dudley told Basketball Insiders. ‘[W]e’re going to go through ups and downs, peaks and valleys.”
In fact, the Suns are the youngest teams in the league and have issues with roster balance, including at point guard and center. These issues help explain why this season has been so tough as the Suns currently rank 13th in the Western Conference with a 12-23 record. The team’s season started off with controversy surrounding talented point guard Eric Bledsoe, whom had become discontent with the state of the team. Bledsoe was ultimately shipped out in a trade for center Greg Monroe (currently out of the Suns’ rotation).
As Dudley stated, he has served as a veteran mentor on other teams, including the Milwaukee Bucks. Dudley made sure to mention his mentorship role with forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“I think the year I left, Giannis said that he missed me in the game huddle adjustments I used to tell him,” Dudley told Basketball Insiders.
When put on the spot to identify which single player Dudley feels he has most strongly connected with as a mentor, he was taken aback and had to think about it for a moment.
“Wow,” Dudley initially told Basketball Insiders. “I think that Tyler [Ulis] and [Devin] Booker because we hang out, we sit by each other on the plane but when it comes to all the young guys, we do team bonding.”
While the rebuild in Phoenix continues to be an ongoing process, one thing is certain – the team has a potential star in Booker, whom has displayed significant growth in his game. Booker went down on December 5 with a strained abductor and is expected to be back by the end of the year. Booker also spoke with Basketball Insiders and offered his thoughts on Dudley’s role on the team.
“[H]e’s just somebody that knows the game really well, has been around the game for a long time so for me, if I have any questions on the business side of the game, Jared [Dudley] knows all of it,” Booker told Basketball Insiders. “So, we have a lot of basketball conversation on the planes and hotel rooms. So yeah, he’s definitely a mentor for me.”
Of note, Dudley also offered his opinion regarding Los Angeles and his tenure with the Clippers.
“I love L.A., maybe not the Clippers, but I love L.A.,” Dudley told Basketball Insiders. “But overall I think it’s just a good place. I mean the Clippers had one of the best teams they’ve had when I was there with CP and Blake. I think you see with them, it’s like the Titanic, it’s slowly going down. You can tell they’re getting ready to blow this thing up with the All-Star break coming up and all the injuries and Jerry West taking over.”
Dudley certainly didn’t mince words when it came to the Clippers. Dudley has previously mentioned that he was asked to play while injured during his tenure with the Clippers. The resulting poor play led to his stint with the team being seen as a disappointment, precipitating his eventual departure via trade. Despite all of this, Dudley did express a degree of optimism regarding the future of the Clippers.
“Overall I think they’re heading in the right direction because they have good leadership and Jerry West has proven it,” Dudley told Basketball Insiders. “You know it’s not going to take that long. His track record shows that he knows how to draft players.”
Playing under difficult circumstances with the Clippers is just one of the many situations Dudley has had to battle through. From dealing with injuries, redefining his role many times over and now serving primarily as a veteran mentor, Dudley has the knowledge and insights to help the Suns’ younger players successfully navigate the NBA – both on and off the court.
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