When Jared Dudley initially revealed this week that he was retiring as a player and joining the Dallas Mavericks as an assistant coach nobody blinked an eye. It seemed totally logical that at 36 he’d opt to end his time as a benchwarmer for the Los Angeles Lakers and begin the next phase of his career.
There was no reason to assume that either side harbored any ill will.
In the days since, it has become clear that Dudley’s separation from the Lakers was far more acrimonious than was originally believed.
Dudley, in particular, seems especially salty about how everything went down.
According to NBA insider Marc Stein, up until recently, the expectation was that Dudley would return to the Lakers as their 15th man for one more year. Obviously that didn’t end up happening.
“The Lakers’ apparent preference, however, is to carry only 14 players and keep the 15th spot open for a down-the-road move, prompting Dudley to take the Dallas Mavericks’ offer to start his coaching career with a front-of-the-bench spot on Jason Kidd’s first Mavericks staff,” Stein wrote.
“Word is that the Lakers did not offer Dudley a coaching role to stay once they made it clear that they were not holding a roster spot for him. The reality, though, is that a behind-the-bench position likely would have been insufficient to keep him in Los Angeles.”
By all accounts, LeBron James and Anthony Davis wanted Dudley to remain in LA.
“Obviously LeBron and AD wanted me back,” Dudley said this week to the Los Angeles Times. “But we just couldn’t convince them. “
“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. 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.”
Dudley insists that he told Lakers brass point-blank they were making a mistake letting him go.
“I talked to Rob and Kurt, 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.’”
— Game 7 (@game7__) August 10, 2021
Dudley is not the first Laker to depart this offseason with a sour taste in his mouth. Earlier this week, Montrezl Harrell offered an aggressive ‘goodbye’ message to the organization on social media that raised more than a few eyebrows. Kyle Kuzma did something similar, too.
Obviously if the Lakers go on to win a title next year and team chemistry is fine, nobody will remember this entire ordeal. If the opposite happens, though – many will wonder if this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.