Sweatin’ It With the (New) JYD
A Q + A with Jared Dudley.
by Brett Callahan
Phoenix Suns forward and bench leader Jared Dudley recently discussed his rise to a bigger role out in ‘Zona, the upcoming playoff stretch, and what players still give him fits on the court. The combo forward has used his smarts and hustle to become one of Alvin Gentry’s most reliable players, putting up 8.1 points, 3.6 boards, 1.0 steals, a stellar 45.3 percent from beyond the arc, and some in-your-face defense in this, his best season yet.
SLAM: What does hustle mean to you?
Jared Dudley: Hustle means determination and a desire to get the job done under any means necessary.
SLAM: You were the ACC Player of the Year (in 2007) joining Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Grant Hill, and many other elite players to win the accolade, but you’ve been able to adapt from “the guy” to an essential role player very well since then. How have you been able to do that?
JD: Well, even though I was ACC Player of the Year, I was still a role guy. How I scored my buckets were on offensive rebounds, getting my teammates involved, hitting jump shots. So, in a sense, my role hasn’t changed, I just got a little more recognition because I was really good at what I did in college. In the NBA, I’ve found my niche more on shooting the ball and playing defense.
SLAM: Who are former or current players in the League who you look up to and try to emulate?
JD: Besides Grant Hill and Steve, because of how old they are and how they’re able to stay competitive and among the elite at their positions, you’ve got to look at Kobe, LeBron, and DWade.
SLAM: How has your role changed from when you were in Charlotte to now being in Phoenix?
JD: In Charlotte, they wouldn’t let me shoot the ball. Now here in Phoenix, they encourage me to shoot and run plays for me sometimes. Basically, Phoenix gave me a chance to show everybody my game — defensively, passing, the heart and desire I have for the game.
SLAM: As a combo forward, you’re often undersized against your competition. How do you manage to be effective against them?
JD: You know, it depends because last night I was guarding Jamal Crawford and I was taller than him, but slower, and then I guarded Joe Johnson, who’s more my size. What I try to do is use my basketball IQ to my advantage, pick and choose my spots offensively when to shoot the ball, and defensively, deciding when to attack and when to play with my hands up.
SLAM: Phoenix missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2004 and there are currently 11 teams in the West at or above .500. What do you guys need to do to return?
JD: We have to trust each other with our rotations defensively, stay healthy, and offensively, keep Steve and Amare the main focuses and feed off of them and know our roles. The second unit can’t turn the ball over, and the first unit needs to play with high energy.
SLAM: You’re at career highs in nearly every category, what do you attribute your consistent play to?
JD: Alvin Gentry giving me an opportunity. Also, in the summertime, working on my offensive game. I got into good shape, extended my range to three-pointers, and grew my confidence. In this league, it’s all about confidence.
SLAM: What are your personal goals for the rest of the season?
JD: For one, make the playoffs. For two, keep getting better. Defensively, I’ve guarded about everyone now and it’s the second or third time around, so I want to be more in tune with my opponent and pick it up energy-wise, because we’re definitely going to need that in this last stretch.
SLAM: You had the nickname the Junkyard Dog back at Boston College. What nicknames have you gained while in the NBA?
JD: I still hear some JYD (Junkyard Dog) and a few others. All of them are fun. I try to have the nickname of someone who hustles and who’s smart, so maybe SLAMonline can give me a good nickname.
…cue the nickname creations folks!
SLAM: What opponent do you look forward to playing against most? Least? Who is the most difficult to guard?
JD: As a team, the Lakers. That’s our heated rival for one, and then you got Kobe Bryant and you’re playing near Hollywood, so definitely L.A. As a player, that’s a good question, man. To be honest with you, the first time I guarded Kobe he was in the block and that gave me trouble, and I’ve always had trouble with Kevin Durant. But besides that, everyone else I’ve done pretty well on.
SLAM: How do you think staying all four years in college prepped you to be immediately effective coming into the League both on the court and off?
JD: I went against all different kinds of coaches. You had Calhoun, Boeheim, Roy Williams, Coach K. You play against so many different styles and learn so many different ways to have to score against zones and double teams, so it prepared me for the responsibility and maturity needed for this league. Four years is always good.
SLAM: What are your thoughts on the social media available to players today that allows them to interact with fans on a regular basis?
JD: I think if you do it right, it’s perfect. Twitter and Facebook take it to the next step. It puts a personality on a face, and that’s why I love it so much.
For more from Jared, check out Tzvi’s and Adam’s interview with him before the season here.