ST. FRANCIS, WIS. — Jared Dudley didn’t know where he was going to end up, but the veteran small forward had a pretty good idea his time with the Los Angeles Clippers.
When his phone rang last week with the news he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, Dudley wasn’t surprised.
While the perceived notion of going from a contender in the Clippers to a team in the beginning stages of a rebuilding phase would be that of disappointment for a veteran, the 29-year-old is looking forward to the challenge of helping the process.
"Going from a contender to a team that’s rebuilding, to me that really doesn’t matter in the sense that I’ve played for teams in all different spectrums," Dudley said. "As a professional, you’ve got to come in with the right mindset and play in the right way, being unselfish and keeping those principles.
"The way I’ve conducted myself throughout the league, that will be the same thing here. This team has a lot going good for them with Jabari Parker coming in here and what he can potentially do for this franchise and organization. That’s a huge upside."
Coming off what was the worst statistical year since he established himself as an NBA player with the Phoenix Suns in 2009, Dudley is also looking to prove he can still play in the league.
He averaged just 6.9 points while shooting 36.0 percent from beyond the arc, the lowest 3-point field goal percentage he’s had since his rookie season with Charlotte in 2007-08.
Dudley began suffering tendonitis in his right knee last August and had patella tendonitis develop in his left knee during the season.
"I remember around November or December I basically told (Clippers) coach (Doc) Rivers I couldn’t go," Dudley said. "We had so many injuries. J.J. (Redick) was out; Matt Barnes was out at that time. Basically he (Rivers) wanted me to fight through it.
"That’s something I told him I could do; I just wouldn’t be 100 percent. I tried to fight through it, and obviously my production wasn’t as good. I think what I did was give him a body to be able to hold the minutes down until those guys got back. For me personally, I might have suffered. But from the team standpoint we were able to get that three spot we needed to have.
"When you look back, would I have done it different? Maybe. But that was just me trying to give my body for a new team and a new coach."
To show how young the Bucks will be, only Zaza Pachulia (30 years old) will be older than Dudley, who turned 29 in July, on the roster this season.
Dudley seems ready to embrace the role of the savvy veteran and wants to pass along the knowledge he was provided with from players like Steve Nash and Grant Hill.
"It wasn’t really what they did on the court, obviously they were great players, it was what they did off the court, in the weight room, how they would conduct themselves when we would lose games, how you win games," Dudley said. "It was just being a professional. I think that’s the biggest thing you can teach young guys is that there’s a way to train and a way to workout. There’s a way to carry yourself."
Like other players drafted or acquired by the Bucks this offseason, Dudley expressed excitement to play for coach Jason Kidd. He’s hopeful playing for a coach who has played against him on the floor will help ease the transition to a new situation.
"Coach Kidd has seen me play," Dudley said. "I played against him obviously when he was in Dallas and I remember him guarding me sometimes. I think a perfect person fit for me would be him, just because he played the right way. That’s what I’m about so I think he’ll be able to respect that.
"Usually you would coach how you played. He let the game come to him, he never forced the action, he let the game come to him and he knew his role. If there was anything that would describe me it would be that — knowing my role, playing the right way and being unselfish."
It’s uncertain as to how Dudley will fit into Milwaukee’s rotation, as the Bucks return Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo at small forward. The versatility of Antetokounmpo and Parker may free up minutes for Dudley, who can help the Bucks spread the floor as a 3-point shooter.
Dudley has hit 39.7 percent of his career 3-point attempts, including shooting a career-best 45.8 percent from beyond the arc with Phoenix in 2009-10.
"The NBA is changing," Dudley said. "The NBA is all about spacing the floor. If you have a star, which most teams do, you give them space.
"Someone like Parker or (Brandon) Knight, who are really good scorers, you’ve got to have spacers to go with them. You can’t have people crowding the floor.
"So for me it’s to be able to let them do their thing, keeping defenses honest. Making the extra pass when you need to, knowing where to get them the ball in the right spots."
Although his 3-point percentage slipped to 36.0 percent last year, Dudley feels he will be able to bounce back and shoot better with the Bucks.
"Let’s be honest, my first four or five years I had Nash," Dudley said. "I think Nash makes it easier for everyone. I always think when it comes to shooting, a lot of it’s mental. When you get in a slump, mentally you have to be on point. I don’t see that being a problem here this year.
"I think I’ll be able to get looks. Parker will be able to help people out. If it’s starting, coming off the bench, whatever I can do to help the team, I’m willing to do. I’m excited for that.
"It’s a new start and I’ll be ready to go in training camp."