The Phoenix Suns have seemingly hit their stride, winning five of their last six games. They find themselves just one game out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, despite an infuriatingly slow start to the lockout shortened season.
The Suns have seen some unlikely heroes step it up in recent weeks to help shoulder the burden of Grant Hill’s absence, and have seen their role players rise to the occasion in critical situations.
“The second unit just knows they are playing such good team basketball, the ball’s being moved around,” Jared Dudley told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf Tuesday. “Sebastian [Telfair] is hitting shots, he’s more under control and Michael Redd, who’s been doing a lot more one-on-ones and getting to the free throw line — I just think the confidence guys are playing with, we expect to win and that carries us throughout the game.”
For Dudley, it’s not the personal accolades that fuel him but instead the burning desire to win.
“For me, it’s about winning, number one,” Dudley said. “As you know, I got my contract last year; I am financially secure so I don’t ever worry about stuff like that. I play to win. Also, Shannon Brown’s been hot and when you’re hot, you deserve the ball.”
Brown has thrived in a starter’s role, filling in for the injured Hill. For a team that has struggled to generate offensive firepower all season long, having Brown post an average of 17.5 points per game as a starter has been instrumental in the team’s recent string of success.
Hypothetically speaking, Dudley would understand if head coach Alvin Gentry opted to keep Brown in the starting lineup over himself when Hill returns.
“I mean every guy has a little pride issues but I definitely would never make any excuses,” Dudley explained. “I would come off the bench and play to the best ability that I can. I root for Shannon Brown.”
If Brown has the hot hand, Dudley believes wholeheartedly he should continue to get the majority of touches, even if it limits his own opportunities.
“It’s not going to change my game,” Dudley stated. “I do what’s best for the team. Early on, I told the Suns, I feel like we play our best when I start. The stuff that I do doesn’t show up in the stat sheet but it’s just being a team player defensively. I am willing to do anything.”
Dudley has been a consummate team player and one of the most unselfish in the league. He may not always get the recognition off the court that he deserves for all the intangibles he brings to the game. But you’ll never hear Dudley complain or make excuses.
“I think that you got to put more years in,” Dudley stated. “I think anyone that knows basketball knows the value I can bring to a team. I do believe that.”
The 26-year-old forward’s sole focus is on helping the Phoenix Suns regain prominence around the NBA, in whatever role is best for the team.
“You always want to be recognized for winning,” Dudley said. “So if we’re losing and I am playing good, it doesn’t matter. But now we’re winning so you want everyone to get shine from that.”