“You’ve got to know your role,” said Dudley. “I was never built like someone who was 6-9 or 6-10, didn’t have athleticism and became a good shooter. Wasn’t a natural shooter. So for me, it’s being smart. It’s a guy, I used to look at Shane Battier; take angles, play the right way, a winner. Do all the little things.
“Some coaches don’t see it, but the good ones do see it. Hearing Kenny acknowledge it, sometimes what I do doesn’t even happen in the stat sheet. It might be flare screens. It might be being in the right position every time. Having a coach trust you. So for one, I knew that was my niche to stay in the league.”
“He gives us veteran experience, and he really keeps the ball moving.”
From Phoenix, Dudley went to Los Angeles, starting 43 games for a 57-win Clippers team in 2013-14, then to Milwaukee and Washington. As a free agent in the summer of 2016, he opted to return to Phoenix, but not before getting an enticing pitch from the new Brooklyn regime of Atkinson and general manager Sean Marks.
“Loved Kenny,” said Dudley of his first impression. “It was his desire, his fire. If he were a car salesman, you would buy the car. His passion. And he was honest. He didn’t know how good they were going to be. He said we’re going to have fun, we’re going to work. And we’re going to have a free-flowing offense where everyone touches the ball. Boggle, side-to-side. Really how he explained me and how he viewed me was how I viewed myself. So we were on the same page of high IQ, knowing the reads, spacing the floor, using your angles.”
The third year on the contract that Phoenix offered two summers ago was a major factor, but after the July trade, Dudley is spending that third year in Brooklyn anyway. It gives him the opportunity to live in New York for the first time, something he reluctantly passed up on in 2016. With his wife and three children under the age of 10, they’re making the most of it.
“I love it,” said Dudley. “I try a new restaurant once a week. I’ve been to the Nutcracker, U.S. Open, Bruno Mars concert, I’ll probably go to the Canelo fight. You just want to experience it, because I don’t think I’ll ever live in New York again. It’s something my wife loves and my kids are in the city, get to go to a public school and all be in the same school. I haven’t driven one time. We walk everywhere, subway, Ubers. Embracing the city.”
He’s also found a bigger role than he expected with the Nets. Preseason or early-season injuries to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, DeMarre Carroll and Treveon Graham presented opportunity at the forward spot that Hollis-Jefferson started at last season, and Dudley ended up starting the first 10 games and turning in a few 30-plus minute efforts.
“He gives us veteran experience, and he really keeps the ball moving,” said Atkinson. “That’s what the coaches like. He’s not a ball-holder. He makes other guys better. He facilitates for Caris, he facilitates for D’Angelo (Russell). It doesn’t stick in his hands, and he gives us some spacing out there. Defensively, you saw what Blake Griffin did the other night [scoring 50 points] and you saw what Jared did against him. That defensive experience, I’ve always felt like he’s been an underrated defender. To me, he’s been a plus for us so far.”
Dudley has got some hoops left, and before he goes on to that next phase, he’s sharing the wisdom he received a decade ago from Hill, Shaq, Nash, and others, connecting with a new group of young players in Brooklyn.
“You get in there, we play pickup, we do the shooting,” said Dudley. “I’m in the weight room with you. And then it’s in the locker room. And then through the course of time, through conversation, you kind of know, this guy’s been around. He’s got some good insight. It just builds. And then when you’re out there playing and they see, hey, he’s being successful without scoring or his team’s winning, and you’re telling them to do this and once they see the rewards of that, then it builds more trust. It’s not for too long that you’re out there leading in different capacities.”
“He loves the game,” said LeVert. “Has a really high basketball IQ. So he loves being in those situations. I’m someone who loves the game as well, so I love to hear from him.”