Jared Dudley, a Southern California kid, spent the 2013-14 season with the Los Angeles Clippers. The dream scenario turned nightmarish. The versatile forward played through knee pain, but not at his expected high level.
One season was enough for Clippers coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers. Desperate to unload the final two seasons of Dudley's contract, Rivers traded a future first rounder and the veteran to Milwaukee for a hodgepodge of nominal assets.
Since then, Dudley regained his form with the playoff Bucks and now leads the NBA in 3-point shooting as a member of the Wizards. With the Clippers at Verizon Center Monday night, Rivers was asked if he regrets that summer of 2014 deal.
"Well I wish [Dudley] would have played that way. He'd still be in LA," the coach stated. "You can go either way with that one. He was injured with us. It just didn't work out."
The trade did for everyone else.
Milwaukee reached the playoffs for the third time in nine years. Sporting a talented and youthful roster, the Bucks also moved Dudley after one season, but did so for needed cap space, not to unload a problem. They only received a future second round pick from Washington, but didn't send other viable assets with Dudley's expiring contract.
Told of Rivers' pregame comments following Monday's game, Dudley said of the Clippers-Bucks trade, "I think you look at Doc. He's a Hall of Fame coach. I don't know if he's a Hall of Fame GM. Going forward, we'll see. I think Milwaukee loved that."
Dudley, 30, started his career in Charlotte before shining over five seasons in Phoenix. Now he's with the Wizards, his fourth team in four seasons. That means there's frequent opportunity for revenge against a former employer. He admits motivation was on the menu with Monday's matchup.
"It's extra because of how it ended," said Dudley, who averaged 6.9 points and 23 minutes in 74 games with the Clippers.
The issue started with kneecap pain for a player who at that point in his career never had a significant injury. Dudley said Rivers "knew about it. I let him know about it numerous times." There were times when Dudley said he anticipated getting rest, but injuries elsewhere had Rivers ignoring those requests.
"You kind of getting tired of talking about it in a sense," Dudley said before continuing. "For me it was a dream to be able to play for [being] from San Diego. Going in there basically with a (partially) fractured kneecap and having to play through pain, letting them know I couldn't go. Still going out there and not being able to play to my full ability."
At the time of the trade, USA Today's Sam Amick wrote, "It was no secret that Clippers coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers wasn't a huge fan of Dudley's game."
Despite a clear difference on the playing through pain scenario with Los Angeles, Dudley said, "I don't look at it as [Rivers'] fault anymore because as a player, you know your body. I let them know. I should have stood more firmly and said I can't go. That's something I've learned."
Dudley had back surgery shortly after the trade to Washington. Despite missing training camp and most of the preseason, he entered Monday shooting a career-high 48.8 percent on 3-point attempts. His scoreless performance in Monday's 108-91 loss is not indicative of the perimeter presence he's provided the Wizards.
"If there is one thing that I've told players going forward, you know your body," he continued. "When you get out there, you have to play at a high level. People don't care if you're hurt. Sometimes you can play through [pain]. ...For that knee injury, I couldn't even bend my knee at the time."
Though he regrets playing with the injury, Dudley loves the end result.
"I thought it hurt me, but to be honest with you, it was a blessing in disguise because I got traded to Milwaukee. Who would have told you that, getting traded to Milwaukee was a blessing in disguise? Got there, basically rededicated myself at getting back to being the player I was. Got to the playoffs and now I'm traded here. I think I've been playing some of my best basketball I've had since the Phoenix days. If I had to do it all over again I would. I just wish I would have been healthy and able to contribute more."
Doc Rivers surely agrees with that final statement.