Jared Dudley was easy to like, when I covered him for the Phoenix Suns. He was candid in interviews and never defensive. When Dudley thought something was wrong, he suggested a good way to fix it even if it meant removing him from the picture to fix it.
When the Suns were at their lowest point in 2013, Dudley suggested they needed to trade him and a few other veterans to get back youth and draft picks to jump start the rebuild. Remember, the team with the fourth-worst record in the league had rotation players that were in the back half of their careers, including Dudley, Marcin Gortat, Luis Scola and Jermaine O'Neal.
Dudley wanted no part of a rebuild that included playing lesser players more minutes just because they were younger than him.
"How I always feel is that the best people should play," Phoenix Suns veteran shooting guard Jared Dudley said when he came in to clear out his locker at the end of the 2012-13 season. "That doesn't mean that the best people should start because that's not how it is, but you should play the most minutes."
But he understood why the Suns reduced his role in the second half to play younger players, like Marcus Morris and Michael Beasley over him.
"When you're out of the playoffs you can do stuff like that," he said of his reduced minutes in the second half of the season. "And you should do it to see what your talent is, going into the off season."
"For us, we have some veterans that would be good trade bait for more of a playoff type team," Dudley admitted, pointedly.
The rewarded Dudley by trading him to the Los Angeles Clippers, who had a starting small forward role available for a deep playoff contender. In exchange, the Suns got young, promising Eric Bledsoe. A win-win trade.
Two years later, after washing out in LA, Dudley helped the Milwaukee Bucks reach the playoffs by providing veteran moxie and consistency off the bench as a small-ball four as well as his usual role as a wing shooter.
This summer, 30-year old Dudley looks like he's breaking into broadcasting a bit more than before. He's likely setting himself up for a post-playing career, and acquitted himself quite nicely all over ESPN this week.
He made headlines, though, saying some controversial things about players that are rarely uttered in the media. Carmelo Anthony is the most overrated player in the NBA. If Kevin Love doesn't re-up with Cleveland, "There's something wrong." James Harden is highly respected for his passing acumen, despite the ability to score at will.
But most of all, and music to Suns fans ears, Dudley said "most guys don't want to play with Kobe" because he's too difficult to play with.
"When he wants to, the worst thing about it, is he can," Dudley said of Bryant turning to his teammates more often. "Remember, Kobe gets in this thing where he doesn't pass and then he overpasses and he's trying to get triple doubles ever night, so we know you have it, it's just not something he wants to do, and that's why I think it'll be a while before the Lakers can get good, because no stars -- I mean, (Kevin) Love -- I'll be surprised if Love wanted to go there."
This is an active NBA player with a lot of friends in the league. Add in that the Lakers are in the West where the going is SO tough to make the playoffs, let alone the Finals, Dudley thinks it will be a while before the Lakers are really good again.
Since the Suns traded their Laker pick to Philly, we certainly don't want to see the Lakers just as bad next year as they were this year. But I don't think that will happen. With Julius Randle and the #2 pick this year, along with a mid-tier free agent or two, the Lakers will likely climb back into the mid-to-late lottery range next season. Dudley is just saying they will have a hard time jumping all the way to playoffs/Finals contention again while Kobe is still playing.
I'm okay with that.