As the Brooklyn Nets’ elder statesman, Jared Dudley’s influence is usually more subtle. But on Saturday, when the Nets needed it most, the old man delivered.
Jared Dudley balked at a buyout last summer because he thought he could still contribute. Traded to the Brooklyn Nets last July, Dudley has become the basketball whisperer for a young team that has gone further faster than most thought was possible.
Dudley is one of 12 finalists for the NBA’s Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year award for what he’s done as a veteran leader for the Nets, but on Saturday night against the Milwaukee Bucks — in a game Brooklyn absolutely, positively had to have — the veteran led by example.
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The 33-year-old played the role of small-ball center — certainly a strange concept for a guy who began his career as a small forward-shooting guard hybrid — and delivered the biggest rebound of the game, an offensive board with 1:25 remaining that resulted in Joe Harris’ go-ahead 3-pointer in Brooklyn’s 133-128 win over the Bucks at Fiserv Forum.
Dudley finished the night with 16 points — matching a season-high — and grabbed six rebounds, four of them in the fourth quarter, to help the Nets get back to the .500 mark on the season and move a bit closer to their first playoff berth since 2015.
All four of Dudley’s fourth-quarter boards came in the final 1:25 of the game, including the two that closed out Brooklyn’s last two defensive stops.
Dudley played 23 minutes, hitting 4-of-8 shots overall, going 2-for-4 from 3-point range and taking and making a team-high six free throws in six attempts.
The six rebounds also matched a season-high as Saturday was the sixth time this season the 12th-year pro has reached that total.
It was just the ninth time in his 58 appearances Dudley has scored in double figures, the first since scoring 15 points in Brooklyn’s double-overtime loss at Portland on March 25.
It would be easy to say that at this stage of his career, Dudley is not a guy who puts up huge numbers. But the truth is, he’s never been that guy.
In 12 NBA seasons, Dudley has averaged more than 10 points per game only three times, the last in 2012-13. He’s never averaged five rebounds a game in a season, nor has he put up three assists per game.
But Saturday was the 846th appearance of Dudley’s long career and the reason he is still around is because he just knows the game.
He can be a bit of an acquired taste for fans, most of whom equate a good player with a guy who puts up big stat lines.
But coach Kenny Atkinson has been a huge Dudley supporter since training camp.
His work on the offensive boards on the what turned out to be the game-winning possession was critical. Dudley saw where the missed shot by D’Angelo Russell was coming off the rim a split-second before anyone else on the floor and got himself to the spot.
That allowed him to tap the ball back out to Caris LeVert for a reset. The scrambled Bucks defense forgot where they put Joe Harris — only the No. 1 3-point shooter in the NBA — and Harris made the Bucks pay dearly for that mix-up.
Dudley will have a career in the NBA long after he hangs up his kicks. He seems a natural to either coach or lead a front office at some point, or he could opt for a career behind a microphone and probably be great at it.
And he’s already been around the game a long time. He’s the only player on the Nets’ roster who played against the Seattle SuperSonics, doing so twice as a rookie for the Charlotte
Horn … err … Bobcats in 2007-08.
A San Diego native, Dudley was the 22nd overall pick by the Bobcats out of Boston College in 2007 and has had a long career as a role player.
He’s been a leader in the locker room, on the bench and on the floor for the Nets this season and on Saturday night, the old pro showed the kids that he still has some tricks up his sleeve.
Enough tricks to help deliver a win against the team with the NBA’s best record.