Lakers forward Jared Dudley has a torn right MCL, the team announced through its injury report Sunday. The veteran role player is still considering his treatment options, according to the team. Dudley, a 14-year veteran, has played only 76 minutes across 11 games so far this season. At 35-years-old and without LeBron James’ freakish athleticism, Dudley’s playing days were drawing to a close as it was. Now, with this injury, it is even less likely that he plays a meaningful on-court role for the Lakers this season.
Of course, that is not his role on this team. While Dudley’s 3-point shooting gave him a chance to contribute when the Lakers signed him before the 2019-20 season, his true value has come off of the court. Dudley is widely regarded as one of the best teammates in all of basketball. Even injured, that is a role that he can still fill. The Lakers prize team chemistry, but have already waived another beloved teammate in Quinn Cook.
Dudley’s contract is guaranteed, so he probably won’t be waived, but given the Lakers’ hard-cap constraints, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see the Lakers trade Dudley to a team capable of absorbing him in order to free up the cash necessary to sign a replacement who can give them something on the floor. Dudley’s contract pays him only the minimum, but with the Lakers less than $2 million below the hard-cap line, every little bit counts.
In the short-term, the Lakers are now down four players due to injury as Dudley, Marc Gasol, Alex Caruso and Anthony Davis all out Monday. Two-way forward Kostas Antetokounmpo is also out due to the league’s health and safety protocols, so the remaining Lakers will all have to pick up the slack to keep the team in the hunt for a top seed in the Western Conference.