Here are a couple of more links about Jalen Johnson’s decision to leave Duke, one from the Duke Chronicle and another from SBNation.
The Duke article basically says lay off the kid. It’s his life and his decision and nothing good comes from raking a teenager over the coals. No argument there. No good can come from that.
The SBN article is pretty good but misses on one thing. The headline is “Jalen Johnson doesn't owe Duke anything,” and that’s correct too, at least broadly speaking. His teammates might disagree or, for all we know, may not care or even find it a positive. None of us can know the team dynamics. When Rasheed Sulaimon left Duke - well, was kicked off the team - it left Duke with an eight player rotation and arguably it helped. Certainly didn’t hurt.
Where we aren’t sure the writer is right is the subhead - Jalen Johnson realized Duke needed him, more than he needed Duke.
His absence might be a serious blow. It could also be a positive. It’s far too early to say so we’ll have to wait on that.
We’re just not sure about the premise. We’d love to see someone - we’re guessing the basketball office already has - figure out a way to see what being associated with Duke is worth.
Guys who leave high school and play overseas get a year or two of income but guys who play at Duke are on ESPN constantly and getting lots of national and International recognition that pays off in a lot of ways, not least of all if they enter the draft.
We’re pretty sure that playing a year or two at Duke simply defers a large amount of income but can’t prove it. We don’t really know.
What we think Duke may prove is this: this team can win without Johnson. They’d already begun to reduce his minutes, starting with the Clemson game, and they’ve gone down every game since.
Offensively, Duke has improved in those outings and in the NC State game, Duke’s defense was dramatically better.
You’ll remember that in his post-game comments, Coach K said his team was “soft” and “sad.” If he said that publicly, you can bet his private comments were much more blunt and direct. Again, we’re speculating, but we’ve heard enough stories over the years to believe that a conversation like this might have taken place after the Miami game:
“This is Duke and tonight was unacceptable. The guys who play from now on are going to be the guys who play hard and show toughness. I don’t care who that is - they’re gonna play. We are never doing this again.”
So we don’t entirely disagree with the article. We’re just saying Duke may have already made its peace with the situation and moved on before Johnson did.
And also that Johnson wouldn’t the first guy who might have thought that Duke needed him more than he needed Duke. This program didn’t get where it has by letting individual egos overcome that of the team.
Win or lose, they’ll be okay without him.