The Clippers could sure use a veteran presence like Jared Dudley on their bench this postseason, but Doc Rivers traded him to the Bucks last summer. And to hear Dudley’s explanation of his final season in Los Angeles, it seemed as though the decision by Rivers was somewhat personal.
“Here’s the thing with the Clippers,” Dudley said. “When I hurt my back in Vegas, I show up there in September trying to get with the training staff, and sometimes when you have an injury it leads to another injury, so basically I was nursing what I thought was tendinitis at the time in my knee, basically I really couldn’t bend my knee 90 degrees so I had to deal with that for the first month or so. I basically went to Doc Rivers and said, ‘Hey, I’ve never had to deal with this, I can’t bend my knee, all my shots are short, I can’t move laterally, I need to sit out.’ At that time Matt Barnes was out with a calf injury and J.J. Redick was out with a herniated disk and he said, ‘Hey, I need you to give me 10-15 games and when those guys come back, I’ll give you a rest.’
“Well, during that time I just couldn’t guard anyone. I couldn’t make a shot, all my shots were short and then confidence happened. By midseason, I get my X-ray and I had a little fracture in my knee so I knew what I was feeling was more than tendinitis. By midseason, [Rivers] brings in [Danny] Granger and I was sent to the pine. The trade [to Milwaukee] was the best thing for my career, where I got with a training staff that got me healthy and when I’m healthy, I’m the player you see now and the player you saw in Phoenix.”
“I talked to Doc maybe a week and a half before I got traded,” Dudley told Zach Lowe on his Lowe Post podcast on Grantland. “That was in August. He was basically like, ‘Hey, you’re young. I don’t know what happened this season.’ I basically told him, ‘You know what happened. I wasn’t right and I thought I would be able to come back.’ “
That seems like a bridge burned by Rivers, but Dudley has found a home in his first season in Milwaukee. And though he has a player option for next season, even if he chooses to become an unrestricted free agent, Dudley feels as though the odds favor a return to the Bucks next season.
“All signs you would think are for me to come back here,” Dudley said, “even if I did opt out. I think my value is at my biggest high here. Even though as a vet I could play for a contending team, I think this has been my most gratifying season.
“Taking a team that was 15 wins to 41 wins, I was here for the beginning of it. I was here to help it. I think it’s hard for Milwaukee to find vets that want to come here, that want to be a role guy. …
Dudley, acquired in an off-season trade with the Los Angeles Clippers that also netted the Bucks a protected 2017 first-round pick, said he thought there was an 80 or 90% chance he would return next season.
“I don’t think it should be a problem,” he said. “I don’t think I’m someone who is overly greedy.”
Dudley’s player option is for $4.25 million for next season. It seems as though he wants to stay with the Bucks, but if he chooses to take the early termination option on his deal, he could realistically end up on a longer-term deal playing for someone else.
Dudley averaged 7.2 points on 46.8 percent shooting, while playing 23.8 minutes per contest in 72 regular season appearances for the Bucks this season.