The Brooklyn Nets are the ninth youngest team in the NBA, the average age being 25.78 years. With such a young roster, you have to expect the team to hit road bumps and careen around learning curves throughout the 2018-19 season.
That’s where Jared Dudley, the team’s oldest (33) and most experienced (13 years) steps in and who understands, after playing for six teams, how to get the most out of young players ... and what the key ingredient is for success.
“For an inexperienced team, confidence is crucial so the more wins you get, the more confident you get in your craft and what the coaches are talking about and what roles on the team are,” Dudley said in one of his recent comments to reporters.
“Stay engaged when you’re a young team,” Dudley told YES Network’s Michael Grady. “Its hard because some stuff can get creeped into your mind so for me it’s over here just giving them little hints and little different adjustments they can do on the fly and hopefully over a course or two it comes natural and you don’t have to say anything.”
Both his teammates and coach think it’s working.
Caris LeVert, who has been playing like an All-Star so far this season, talked about how much of an impact the Nets veterans have made on the Nets team after Brooklyn’s win over Phoenix.
“Those guys have been huge for our team,” said LeVert. “Jared’s constantly talking to us out there, watching film with us. He’s huge, huge part of our team, stuff that doesn’t show up in the stat sheet.”
Kenny Atkinson had high praise for his 13-year veteran for the mentorship and his productive play. In fact, he gave Dudley an A+.
“Not only (for his) mentorship, but we’re obviously starting him and he’s contributing,” Atksinson told reporters before Tuesday’s game. “He’s doing it in the locker room and he’s also doing it with his play, because he doesn’t need the ball in his hands.”
Indeed, Dudley has told reporters that he’s been trying to point out “little things” to the younger guys.
“The little things are what’s key,” Dudley told Greg Logan. “We’re a terrible rebounding team because, if you look at film, we don’t box out. I might not get a lot of rebounds, but I bet I’m in the top one or two at boxing-out. And then with ball movement, when we score, our percentages go up higher when we go side-to-side.”
It’s a role he has tried fulfilling at some of his other stops along the way.
Devin Booker, who signed a max contract extension with Phoenix this past offseason, praises Dudley for a lot of the success he has had in the NBA and how one of his close friends, and now Dudley’s current teammate, D’Angelo Russell, loves having Dudley around as well.
“A lot, and not just on the court, but off the court,” Booker said in talking to Logan. “Jared is one of those guys that keeps it real no matter what the circumstances. The business side of the game, he understands that. I see a future of him being in a front office somewhere or maybe even a coach.”
“He’s starting for them. It’s a very big role for them. I’m really close friends with D’Angelo [Russell]. He said ‘I love having Jared on my team.’ I was like, ‘I know. I did too.’ He didn’t really even play for us, but definitely, he’s someone I credit a lot of my success to.”
It’s been rewarding for Dudley, of course, too. A lot of people thought he was done. Phoenix wanted to buy him out last season. There were hints after the Nets traded for him that they would try the same thing. Instead, Dudley’s impact on and off the court is one key to Brooklyn’s surprising start. For Dudley, he wants to prove the doubters that he is still fit and talented enough to be playing in the NBA.
“For me, it was showing myself and the league that I could play,” Dudley said before the Nets faced the Suns Tuesday night in Phoenix. “When you’re not doing your job for a year or two, people think, ‘Is the team wasting money on him? Can he still play? Is he out of shape?’ For me to spend the summer I did and get into tip-top shape, I could go to the bench next week or whatever and [I showed] I’m an NBA player.”