The Los Angeles Lakers are anxiously awaiting the return of LeBron James to the lineup, but there’s another veteran to keep an eye on this weekend as the team wraps up the regular season.
Jared Dudley may suit up for the Lakers’ final two games of the season after more than two months with a torn MCL, per Lakers forward — and now NBA insider — Kyle Kuzma, who broke the news in a tweet.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) may make his return to play this weekend as the team travels to Indy/Nola for their final push of the season league sources tell me.
— kuz (@kylekuzma) May 13, 2021
It was unknown if the 35-year-old was able to return this season after the injury was announced. Dudley last appeared in a game for the Lakers on March 3 and has previously missed time with a calf injury.
Dudley Provides Key Veteran Leadership
The reality is that Dudley won’t provide a massive boost for the Lakers, but he does take a pride in his role as a leader for the Lakers, even when he’s in street clothes on the sideline.
“When you’re on a veteran team, it’s having professionalism, and also just doing your job. When you do your job on the court, that gives you more of a trust off the court,” Dudley told NBA.com in 2020. “It’s more trying to get to know you as a person, as a friend, and then when it comes to the basketball and they respect you, and they understand where you’re coming from as a person, they can kind of hear your advice a little better. It could be shot selection at a certain time, time of possession when it comes to slowing the ball down and getting a good shot instead of rushing a couple shots.”
For his career, Dudley is averaging 7.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists. His career-best season came in Phoenix in 2011-12 when he averaged 12.7 points per game and played a career-high 31.1 minutes.
Dudley has built a reputation as being a great interview and appears to be angling for a career in media after he hangs it up. He wrote a book that was recently released titled, Inside the NBA Bubble: A Championship Season under Quarantine.
Lakers Expected to Have James Back for Final Stretch
The big question is whether or not James will be able to get some work in before the postseason begins.
James is expected to return to the lineup on Saturday, per Yahoo’s Chris Haynes, but there were also reports floating around that the four-time MVP would be on the court for the last two games against the Knicks and Rockets.
“I think he wanted to be back long before now, but obviously you have to listen to your body,” Vogel told reporters. “When guys have injuries, they have to be out … I think he’s being intelligent with it but he certainly wants to be out there as soon as possible, I can tell you that much. He’s very eager to get back.”
Kuzma isn’t too worried about James finding his rhythm for the postseason.
Is Kyle Kuzma worried about what LeBron will look like when he comes back?
“No. I’m not… I don’t really care if he comes back and plays against Indiana or the Pelicans and shoots 45 times to get a rhythm. He’ll find it.”
— Play-in Game Faigen (@hmfaigen) May 13, 2021
“I don’t really care if he comes back and plays against Indiana or the Pelicans and shoots 45 times to get a rhythm,” Kuzma said. “He’ll find it.”
James was an MVP candidate before going down with the injury. He’s averaging 25 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.8 assists this season.
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