LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers might have missed each other in the playoffs last year, but Lakers reserve Jared Dudley revealed in a new book that his team was primed for the “Battle for L.A.” because of Paul George.
“We hear some of those guys talking about how they’re the team to beat in L.A.,” Dudley and co-author Carvell Wallace wrote in their 42-page book “Inside the NBA Bubble: A Championship Season under Quarantine,” released this week. “It’s fine if Kawhi [Leonard] says stuff like that. He’s defending a championship. We don’t trip if someone like Patrick Beverley is talking trash; that’s how he feeds his family. We get it. We respect the hustle.
“But we think it’s disrespectful for Paul George, who hasn’t won, to put himself on the level of [LeBron James] and [Anthony Davis]. This motivates us.”
In an interview with NBA TV during the Clippers’ media day last season, George answered a reporter’s question wondering if he and Leonard were the top duo in the league by saying, “I think so. When you look at two guys that play on both ends, two guys that can go and get a basket, two guys that can stop you from getting a basket, elite on both ends, I don’t see how you can beat that.”
The Denver Nuggets figured out a way to do it, coming back from a 3-1 deficit to bounce the Clippers from the Western Conference semifinals, thus thwarting a Lakers-Clippers showdown.
When asked about the passage in the book Wednesday, Dudley explained that it was more about how the Lakers interpreted what George said than what the content of his message was, that got the team riled up.
“Anyone can say anything,” Dudley told reporters on a videoconference after practice. “It’s what we use as motivation. And sometimes, if ever you remember Michael Jordan, all the certain stuff that he used as motivation for him. It wasn’t like they were wrong. It’s what I view.”
Dudley was asked if, as a veteran role player, he was hypocritical in calling out an All-Star such as George, in much the same fashion George elevated himself into a conversation that included NBA champions when he never had played in the Finals.
“So, giving me the right [to talk trash back]? I don’t know. I don’t know what gives me the right. Fourteen years, 900 games, played with over 25 Hall of Famers. Future coach, future GM, I think I put a little bit of work in where I could talk about it,” Dudley said. “Doesn’t mean what I say is right.”
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue sounded like he would agree with the part about Dudley being wrong.
“A book? Jared Dudley?” Lue asked before the Clippers played the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.
“I know I probably can’t cuss on here so I won’t cuss, but who cares? Just be who you are, play your game, who cares what people say, and what the outside people think. … As far as for me, I really don’t care what people say on the outside. And, you know, I hope PG doesn’t either.”
Following some on-court jawing with Chris Paul and Devin Booker during a game against the Phoenix Suns earlier this season, George said he’s been surprised to hear “a lot of chirping and people just living in the past.”
After Wednesday’s win over the Cavs, George replied politely when asked about Dudley’s book.
“God bless him. God bless you, Jared Dudley,” George said. “I don’t know what it is, dudes love throwing my name in stuff. But God bless you Jared.”
Dudley detailed in the book that it wasn’t just George’s comments that got under the Lakers’ skin — adding that a boastful Clippers billboard campaign plastered all over the city, including one strategically placed near the highway leading to the Lakers’ practice facility, provided plenty of fuel, too. It was all too much talking for the Lakers’ taste, he wrote.
“My comments were more about how we viewed the motivation,” Dudley said Wednesday. “Paul George is a hell of a player, an MVP candidate. Doesn’t mean that what he said wasn’t wrong. But the difference is … how you see how someone like LeBron and AD, them not saying anything. Them saying, ‘You know what, we’ll find out who the king of L.A. is on the court’ last year.”
The Clippers beat the Lakers 116-109 on opening night in December in what Dudley hopes to be a preview of a postseason meeting.
“I mean, the Clippers — if you were going to ask me who we’re going to play [last year], I thought we were going to play the Clippers in the Western Conference finals. I expected them to be there,” he said. “I expect them to be there this year. They have the talent, they have the All-Stars, they have great coaching … and I think this is all part of basketball.
“I think the league needs it. The league needs us to play the Clippers, the league needs us to play Brooklyn. … We view them highly.”
Just not too highly.
“We know Lakers will always be … the Lakers will be L.A.,” Dudley declared. “That’s what it is. It’ll always be our city. The Clippers could win 10 championships and it would still be [that way]. It’s the history. It’s how it is.”
ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk contributed to this report.