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Jared Dudley: Just being himself ... and that’s a good thing

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NBA: Playoffs-Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Jared Dudley told Marc Stein of the Times that no one on the Nets ever told him to tone it down. No, they were happy with Dudley being Dudley even after he called Ben Simmons “average” when he isn’t in the open court.

“When it came to the front office, no one said anything about toning it down. It was not intended to be said in a disrespectful manner. And I think I’ve earned that right in my 12 years. I’m not saying stuff to say stuff.”

And that’s a good thing. Dudley being Dudley is almost always entertaining, as he was Tuesday night on TNT’s playoff coverage...

He might have had second thoughts about calling Simmons “average,” but not that many, telling Stein...

“I do wish I chose different words. I was breaking down how we were going to guard him — how you try to limit someone like Ben Simmons. I was just trying to say that we would have our best success if we could get him in a half-court game.Should I have used the word “average?” Looking back on it, no. It was such a negative reaction after I said it that no one heard I also said he was elite in transition and an elite passer. But, you know, it happens. It’s the playoffs. And I understand the reaction. I understand how it goes.”

Dudley once again praised the Nets organization, a frequent mantra of his during the season, saying he’d be “shocked” if the Nets don’t get a sit-down with Kevin Durant and Kryrie Irving.

“It’s just set up for one All-Star player to come in and take this team from a six seed to a two seed within one year. They have the infrastructure — good owner, good G.M., good coach. The practice facility is one of the best in the league. The arena is one of the best in the league. You’ve got draft picks, cap space, you’re in New York City. And the young talent — when it comes to 25 and under, if it’s not the best talent in the league it’s second or third.”

“I really believe that it should be in the top three for any top free agent. No matter where you’re at.”

Despite reports that he might like to finish his career in Boston where he played four years at Boston College, Dudley spoke about how he’d like to be back ... about also how the Nets pursuit of free agents could complicate matters.

“Possible. I do think if it was up to Kenny and even Sean Marks, I think they would like me back. But they’ve got a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C — as they should. That doesn’t mean I can’t fit into that.”

Dudley was initially viewed as yet another salary dump when the Nets traded for him in mid-July, getting a lightly protected 2021 second rounder as well. But he said Marks and Atkinson surprised him in their first conversations.

“Phoenix wanted me to do a buyout. I didn’t want to do a buyout, so I think they had to throw in a second-round pick to get Brooklyn to take my contract. I figured the Nets would want to do a buyout, but Sean Marks called my agent Mark Bartlestein — and Kenny Atkinson called me — and they said not only do we want you on the team but we want you to play. I was shocked. And happy.”

Ultimately, so was everyone. And no, he says, he wasn’t surprised that the Nets made the playoffs even when the team was 8-18 and he organized a players-only film session.

“We had a players-only film session after we lost eight in a row instead of having a team meeting. Guys were calling each other out. Young players were asking questions. The next night we beat Toronto at home — they were the No. 1 team in the N.B.A. at the time. That just kind of got us going.”

And Dudley being Dudley is still going.