June 14, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Jared Dudley says Lakers felt disrespected by the Clippers last season

Lakers reserve forward Jared Dudley, one of the NBA’s premier talkers and someone well positioned for a post-basketball career behind a microphone, made news Wednesday with an excerpt of his new book “Inside the NBA’s Bubble.”

Dudley wrote (and narrated in the audiobook format) that the Lakers felt disrespected that Clippers’ star Paul George “put himself on the same level” as LeBron James and Anthony Davis, using the Clippers’ desires to takeover Los Angeles as fuel in their run to a NBA championship.

Talking about the book at length Wednesday, Dudley said he expects the Clippers to be in the Lakers’ path again. They’re the team, with George and Kawhi Leonard, that seems like the most obvious bet to eventually be in the Western Conference Finals waiting for James, Davis and the Lakers.

“I expect them to be there this year,” Dudley said of the Clippers. “They have the talent, they have the All-Stars, they have great coaching and stuff like that, and I think this is all part of basketball.

“I think the league needs it. The league needs us to play the Clippers.”

But no one should look past the Denver Nuggets, not after what everyone inside that bubble saw from them last year. The Nuggets shook off an incredible six straight elimination games against the Utah Jazz and the Clippers on their way to facing the Lakers in the precursor to the Finals.

The Lakers host Denver on Thursday at Staples Center, their first game back in Los Angeles in two weeks.

And even though the Nuggets, like everyone really, aren’t exactly the same as a year ago, they should still be viewed as a threat.

“Denver is always in the conversations about one of the better teams in the league,” Davis said. “They’re always one of the top teams in the West, top four or five teams in the West. I mean, they came back from 3-1 twice last year. …They are well-coached team, a well-rounded team and they always can go put fear in somebody’s heart.

“They scare a lot of teams and so I’ve always viewed Denver as one of the top teams in the league capable of beating any team in a seven-game series.”

So far this season, Denver is squarely in the second-tier of Western Conference teams, trailing the Jazz, Clippers and Lakers, who are all bunched at the top. While they’ve missed wing Jerami Grant, center Nikola Jokic is a threat for the Most Valuable Player award this year after opening the season by averaging 26.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.6 assists while also leading the team in steals and blocks.

“He’s a hell of a player. He’s playing extremely well this season,” Davis said. “He’s able to shoot the ball. He’s able to score out of the post. He’s able to pass. So he does it all for their team. He brings the ball up and they go and set screens for him. He’s running the action.

“So he brings a different dynamic that we probably haven’t seen this year. But it’s always fun going up against a player like that.”

Behind Jokic, the Nuggets are a threat in the postseason and on Thursday, with the first game back after a long trip always a tough test.

“Every time you play against one of the best teams in the league, there’s always that measuring-stick concept in your mind,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “But we really want to have a big-picture mindset more than anything.”

UP NEXT

VS Denver

When: 7 p.m., Thursday

On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet, TNT; Radio: 710, 1330

Update: The Lakers are back at Staples Center after a 5-2 trip that kept them out of their building for longer than two weeks. And in Denver, they won’t be eased back into the swing of things at home, facing a team they fought in the Western Conference finals a year ago. The Nuggets are led by MVP candidate Nikola Jokic, who is playing the best basketball of his career, leading Denver in virtually every statistical category.