When Jared Dudley is done as a player, he’s going to have a great career as a broadcaster. That playing career is not over — you think Doc Rivers could have used him in the playoffs, rather than forcing him out the door? — but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a guy media members will go to faster for a quote and some insight.
Plus he’s honest. He tells you what he thinks, no matter what.
“Most guys don’t want to play with Kobe. He gets in this thing where he doesn’t pass and then overpasses and then tries to get triple doubles every night…that’s why I think it will be a while for the Lakers to get good because they’ve got no stars. I would be surprised if (Kevin) Love goes there.”
When Henry Abbott wrote this at ESPN before the start of last season, he was vilified. Kobe’s vocal and vociferous defenders came out of the woodwork to shout him down online. Other players came out publicly saying “of course I’d play with Kobe,” although what else did you expect them to say.
But what Dudley says has some truth to it. Kobe is one of the game’s greats and an icon, but these are not the only voices saying playing with him is an issue for many around the league. Few are willing to say it publicly.
Free agents will still come to the Lakers, but their pool may be smaller than some other teams.
The first rule of free agency is to go where they pay you the most money, and if that’s the Lakers guys will go there.
However, players with options can take other factors into consideration. Do they like the city? Endorsement opportunities. Weather. Taxes. Family.
And how things will be on the court. Not everyone likes playing with Kobe, and that’s not simply a matter of “they can’t handle the truth” or whatever version of that his defenders want to bring.
One reason is the ball sharing and flow of the offense that Dudley mentions. Go to the Lakers and the question is how you fit in Kobe’s offense, how you play in his shadow. That’s not for everyone.
The other is Kobe’s old-school, “Whiplash” school of being hard on teammates isn’t the only way to win. Look at Golden State under Steve Kerr, where the players talk all the time about how much they enjoy playing for Kerr, how he is fun and positive with the team. Heck, even Phil Jackson was far more honey than vinegar. Guys with options may well look at Kobe and say “why do I want to put up with that?”
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak will say “if they can’t play with Kobe we don’t want them” but the reality is his team needs talent, and if one of the players on his team is keeping some of that talent away, it’s going to slow the rebuilding process.