A banged up Jared Dudley was traded from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Milwaukee Bucks in August, 2014. Twelve months later, Dudley was gone, leaving Milwaukee as a fan favorite with plenty of memories in an unexpected playoff run.
The 2014-15 season will live long in the memories of Milwaukee Bucks fans for a variety of reasons. Jason Kidd taking the reins, Giannis Antetokounmpo coming of age, Jabari Parker being drafted before tearing his ACL, and Jared Dudley and Zaza Pachulia anchoring the league’s second-best defense.
The Bucks rocketed up the standings to improve on the previous season’s win total by 26 under their rookie head coach, appearing destined for bigger and better things right.
Those projections never quite manifested, as the Bucks moved on from Dudley and Pachulia, and failed to reach the playoffs the next season. In fact, the Bucks stagnated all together under Kidd, never progressing out of the first-round in his four-year tenure.
The Step Back caught up with current Brooklyn Net, Dudley, in the tunnel before his team hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers at Barclays Center. In a fun conversation, Dudley talks about those Bucks, Jason Kidd, Giannis Antetokounmpo and modern day adjustments.
The Step Back: You come to a 15-win team, you’re a veteran at this point, what are you thinking with that roster in front of you and presumably wanting to be a winner at that point in your career?
Jared Dudley: I was obviously disappointed being traded away from the Clippers, I had a bad year that year, I was hurt and I wanted to make up for it. The only reason I was excited was one of the trainers, Chris McKenzie came out to Vegas while I was training and he did some stuff in the weight room, where it relieved pressure in my knee. I went from being hurt all year to being 100 percent in two weeks, it was kind of an amazing how he did it. He basically activated my glute and it released pressure in my knee.
On arriving in Milwaukee:
It shocked me, so by the time I get to Milwaukee I’m now thinking of it as a new opportunity and I didn’t know how good the team was going to be and Jason Kidd said to me, “I’m telling you right now, this teams a playoff team, so if you don’t believe it get out.”
At the time I didn’t believe it. We started the season a little slow and then we got on a winning streak and after that we started believing. It was a good mixture of youth and experience where the young guys didn’t complain, practiced hard, they didn’t feel entitled.
I was starting over Giannis and I had to go to J Kidd to bench myself because I knew our team needed that.
I mean, great year, great year for the city and for us to be one of the worst teams in the league and then make the playoffs, it shows what you can do in this league in one year.
The season pans out the way it does, you make the playoffs, what is your favorite moment from that season individually?
Obviously, the pass to Bayless to win the game because it was the playoffs and we were able to tie it up 2-2 going back to Chicago. Besides that, the Khris Middleton game-winner in Phoenix, me getting to go back there. Giannis at the Garden jumping from basically the free-throw line, we had so many good memories but I think we went on a nine-game winning streak right before the All-Star break.
We were the sixth seed and I really thought we could have a huge run but then we traded Brandon Knight and the whole dynamic of the team changed.
The defense ranks second in that season and from that point on has major issues, how big in your mind were you and Zaza for organizing that scheme and was it destined to struggle once they lost that veteran presence and the league caught up?
You know what, I’m going to be honest with you, I feel like coaches are so afraid of changing and adjusting on the fly. Jason, one thing I’d credit to him and Coach Sweeney who is now in Detroit, we would change things all the time. If LaMarcus Aldridge scored two points in the post, most coaches would say stay home and let him beat us. It wasn’t like that with us, we’d double from the baseline, we’d double from the top, if a guy was killing us in the pick-and-roll, they want to switch everything, we would trap Lillard and make him pass it to someone else.
Credit to the coaching staff, they were wanting to try new stuff where in today’s age it’s all about switching. Even though we had the personnel with Giannis and John Henson to do that, we tried so much different stuff and there was never a set defense and then we had me and Zaza in the back with the IQ to put everybody in the right place.
After that year though, the Bucks greatest downfall was that defense. There was never any noticeable effort to break away from that scheme. You played against the Bucks many times after that season, was it seen as a scheme that was easily broken down?
Yeah, it’s just tough.
What people don’t understand is this league is all about athleticism and strength, but the best teams that win and the best teams defensively are the smartest teams. You have to have a little bit of both, you have to have athleticism, but you have to have the right personnel. Some guys shoot better going left, some shoot better going right so you have to understand that. I think they…not a mistake that they made, but they got more athletic but lost a little bit of IQ and sometimes that can hurt you.
Giannis recently mentioned that Bud was extremely encouraging at halftime during a game the Bucks were down big. He mentioned that in years past Jason would just yell at them which could cause guys to go into their shell. Your career has spanned both the old school and modern generations, was Jason too hard on the guys?
I think young guys don’t respond to harsh, in-your-face criticism compared to the older guys who have been through it. I think with Giannis and the other European players, when you look at overseas the coaches are angry, demanding, and Americans are more coddled and worried about their ego. As a coach, as a captain, you have to lead in different ways for different people.
On that team in Milwaukee, Jason got after Giannis and I think that made him better, but then he got after Jabari and I thought that put him in his shell.
That being said, Kidd was at that time a second-year coach, so I think if he got another job he would change. If you look at Alvin Gentry, he would tell you now he’s a different coach compared with his first job in Detroit. We’re all adjusting on the fly but for any coach to take a 15-win team to the playoffs says something, but some coaches can take a 30-win team to a 50-win team and I think Bud is perfect for that.
The last game you played in Milwaukee obviously wasn’t a great result. When Giannis bulldozes Dunleavy like that after some cheap shots the other way, what are you thinking in that moment and was it in some way a sign of his insane competitiveness and loyalty to his squad?
(smiles) I’m thinking it was frustration. It was frustration because of what Dunleavy did to him and that’s something as a young player he didn’t know how to handle. You can get him back in different ways and I think Giannis now would handle it differently.
Sometimes you need that, I mean I’ve got some flagrants and technicals when I was younger that were just out of frustration so I never looked at it negatively, I thought, hey you know what, immature sure, but let’s learn from it so you can improve.
One last one, do you miss Jared (Dudley), Jerryd (Bayless) and Juice (OJ Mayo)?
I do, I miss that.
I still talk to Bayless weekly or every other week. OJ not as much, I tried to once or twice but that was a great group. Between those guys and Zaza, we used to gamble together and hang out together a lot, it was a great time.
It’s safe to say that Bucks fans miss Dudley’s personality as much as his vibrant personality and leadership in Milwaukee. Dudley suited up in 78 games for the Bucks including 22 starts, before being traded to Washington for a future second-round pick at the end of the 2014-15 season.