PHOENIX –– On the cusp of his first unofficial game here as a former Sun, Jared Dudley had no hesitation when asked to identify the most peculiar aspect of his return.
“Flying in and not going home,” said Dudley, who was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers last summer, before the two teams squared off in Tuesday’s preseason game at U.S. Airways Center. “I have a lot of good memories. It’s basically my second home.”
As a key chip in the three-team deal that brought Eric Bledsoe to Phoenix, Dudley and his arsenal of intangibles now are working as the starting small forward for one of the strongest teams in the Western Conference.
That’s quite a bit different than what J.D. experienced during his last season with the Suns. But that, of course, wasn’t exactly standard procedure during his first couple of seasons in these parts, either.
Not that Dudley’s complaining.
“I had a great situation here,” he said. “I started as the 10th, 11th man, worked my up to a starter off and on. Now I come back here, as a starter so far …
“I can honestly say I gave everything I had to the organization. I got better while I was here. I can only say good things.”
In his first three games as a teammate of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and their other Clipper cronies, Dudley has provided a modest 3.3 points in about 24 minutes per practice game.
But his experience and willingness to do whatever is required to win dovetails perfectly with the championship (buzzword alert) culture first-year coach Doc Rivers is attempting to establish.
Dudley has been impressed by his new surroundings.
“Doc’s good, man,” he said. “We always talk about enjoying the process, getting to love the process. He’s instilled that over and over again.”
And after struggling on a team on the verge of embracing a rebuilding process, Dudley — who bounced to Phoenix from the lowly Charlotte Bobcats — finds himself in another situational upgrade.
“I’ve always been lucky, when I’ve had a great situation, to make the most of it,” he said.
While looking aggressively forward, Dudley said he’ll always consider Phoenix a special place.
“I’m sorry we had to split up,” he said, “but you understand it’s a business.”