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The Media Really Can Be Ridiculous At Times

This has been significantly distorted and made to sound like something it’s not.

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2018 NBA Draft Combine - Day 2
CHICAGO, IL - MAY 18: Wendell Carter Jr. speaks with reporters during Day Two of the NBA Draft Combine at Quest MultiSport Complex on May 18, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. 
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

We didn’t link to this story originally because it seemed like a minor offhand comment and we didn’t think people could misinterpret it. Needless to say, a number of folks have, some gleefully.

The story in question is that Wendell Carter said that players “weren’t able to show all their strengths” at Duke.

Here’s the full quote: “I think even my teammates, all my teammates, weren’t able to show all their strengths. That’s just the college life. You buy into whatever college you go to. You do whatever you got to do to help the team win. I think, not even speaking for myself, but all my teammates, we’re going to be able to show a lot more that we can do at the next level with the spacing on the floor, the fact that it’s the NBA. It’s not no-zone like how we were playing [at times], but it’s a lot more space on the court.”

First, people focused on the smaller quote above. Even Carter went on to say that’s part of college wherever you go. And we can pretty much promise you that all of them were recruited with this foundational idea of Duke basketball: you get a chance to be part of something bigger than yourself. Carter said as much himself: “You do whatever you got to do to help the team win.“

When you accept that, you accept Coach K’s contention that there is no individual ego, there’s the ego of Duke basketball. In other words, you subordinate your individual strengths for the good of the team. The truth is that in any team sport, in order to succeed collectively, you have to sacrifice individually. Why is that even up for debate?

And obviously Carter is correct: that would happen at Kentucky or Villanova or Michigan State. Anyone who coaches to allow individual players to do their thing is courting disaster, not to mention unemployment. It might be fun for awhile but it’ll end ugly.

It might’ve been nice too if some of the stories about his comment had remembered to quote Carter when he said he had learned a lot from Coach K and improved, or that his mother loved his college experience and had encouraged him to stay in spite of her comparing it to slavery.

It’s been turned into a cudgel to bash Duke and that’s really unfair. Nothing new there of course, but it still stinks.

By the way, he’ll be well compensated as a professional, but Carter would do well to also remember what Coach said a while back about NBA players: that the vast majority of them are role players supporting stars. He may get a chance to show a great deal more or, like most guys, he may be asked to do a limited number of things at a very high level. We’ll see soon.

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