MILWAUKEE — While Carmelo Anthony was without an NBA job for over a year, Los Angeles Lakers forward Jared Dudley caught the relentless ire of current players, former players and fans who felt his talent was not deserving of a roster spot over a player who will eventually be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Dudley, a serviceable role player and a career 39.4 percent 3-point shooter in his 13-year career, was frequently insulted and turned into a talking point whenever discussion centered on why Anthony wasn’t with an NBA team.
Dudley’s skillset and physical condition were unfairly called into question. And at times, clearly frustrated with being inserted into the matter, Dudley took to Twitter to defend himself from the attacks.
Now that the Portland Trail Blazers have added the 17-year veteran and 10-time All-Star, Anthony can now weigh in on how Dudley became linked to his hiatus from the league.
“Me and Jared Dudley had some issues in the past, man, but I started feeling bad for him a little bit,” Anthony told Yahoo Sports. “I mean, not feeling bad, but it’s just like, ‘Leave that man alone.’ It’s not his fault. Teams that wanted him, they wanted a specific role, and that's why they picked him up. I had to tell some guys to lay off. He wasn’t keeping a roster spot from me. That wasn’t the case. The [treatment] he received wasn’t right.”
Anthony expounded on the issues he had with Dudley.
“Man, it was just some game s--- in [competition],” he told Yahoo Sports. “S--- that happened on the court. Nothing serious. We don’t have any problems.”
The Trail Blazers are in the midst of a three-game losing skid. On Thursday night, the Milwaukee Bucks (12-3) defeated the injury-plagued Blazers 137-129 at the Fiserv Forum.
Anthony went for 18 points on 6-of-15 shooting to go with seven rebounds and four assists in 28 minutes with Damian Lillard sidelined for a second consecutive game because of back spasms. Portland (5-11) now has the second-worst record in the Western Conference.
Many thought the Lakers would be the team to sign Anthony in the offseason because of their need for depth and floor spacing. That speculation also arose because of Anthony’s close friendship with superstar LeBron James.
Anthony had the blessing of James, league sources told Yahoo Sports, but the front office chose to go in a different direction.
The 6-foot-8 forward said he understood that his extended absence from the league had very little to do with what he was capable of doing on the court.
“Honestly, I think it was more of, not intimidation, but it was more so teams not wanting to put themselves in that situation of having to deal with what role I was going to accept and questioning if I was going to accept my role and the media [attention] that's behind it all,” Anthony told Yahoo Sports. “Just everything that comes along with bringing me in. Nobody knew where I was at, as far as what I was thinking. I think it was more so of everything else outside of basketball. I don't think anybody thought, ‘Oh, he can't play anymore. He can't do this.’ It was everything that had to do with outside of basketball.”
Life Time Athletic at Sky, a posh gym in New York where Anthony participated in summer pickup games that generated viral highlight clips, wasn’t always his place of refuge.
Not knowing if he would ever get another NBA shot, the closest Anthony could get to the association was by playing in open runs hosted by NBA trainer Chris Brickley.
Those games are where Anthony confirmed he could still be a force, but they also made it more difficult for the one-time scoring champ to cope with the realities of his situation.
“Having success in those games, that was hard, man,” Anthony told Yahoo Sports. “It was one point in time, I was like, ‘I don't even want to go.’ Man, honestly. I felt embarrassed, you know what I'm saying? So, I had to get over that, and once I got over that and the guys were like, ‘I'm playing [great] and it’s OK.’ Once I'm in the gym, I’m in the gym. That’s second nature. So I was just like, ‘Let me just get back in the gym,’ and all the guys were in there. I treated that almost like it was a season for me, like training camp the way that I went in and approached it. And I think guys saw that. Guys saw my level of focus at that point.”
With a new team and a rejuvenated love for the game, Anthony looks forward to seeing what the Trail Blazers can accomplish once they're fully healthy.
It’s been a long journey to get back to where he belongs, but it was that experience — which caused so much unnecessary vitriol directed toward Dudley — he said he won’t take for granted.
“Yeah, [Dudley] didn’t deserve that,” Anthony told Yahoo Sports. “We were in different situations. You can’t blame him for what I went through.”
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