Monday, March 8, 2021

Jim Boeheim defends comments on Duke’s Jalen Johnson, says he hasn’t seen him play

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Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim tried to revisit comments that seemed critical of Duke rookie Jalen Johnson, who chose to forgo the Blue Devils’ last six regular season games and move on. prepare for the NBA Draft.

Boeheim commented on Johnson’s decision on his weekly radio show Thursday, saying the former five-star rookie was “hurt” his team and that his absence actually helped Duke to two wins. Duke’s coach Mike Krzyzewski and his teammates backed Johnson’s decisions, leading many to panic over Boeheim’s comments; ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, for example, called them “inappropriate.”

After the backlash, Boeheim on Saturday attempted to clarify his statement: What he meant by his comments, Boeheim said, was that Duke was simply playing his best ball of the game-and-a-half that he watched after Johnson has withdrawn.

“It’s not a scatter, a scattering casting on Jalen Johnson,” Boeheim said. I haven’t even seen Jalen Johnson play this year, to be honest. He’s a great player. Probably a great pro. I just made the observation, my opinion, that I thought they played better without him in those two games. Jay Bilas said I said they made a better team without him all the time. I did not say that. I did not mean that.

“In those two games, game and a half alone, they were a better team than I’ve seen this year. Nothing against Jalen Johnson. Some people said he shouldn’t have left school – I didn’t say that. Some people said he didn’t mean his team – I didn’t say that. I don’t even know Jalen Johnson, I really haven’t seen him much, I don’t don’t even know how good he is and Duke could be better if he was back. We won’t know because he hasn’t come back. “

AFTER: Bilas denounces Boeheim’s ‘inappropriate’ comments on Johnson

Below is Boeheim’s original comments on Johnson (via Syracuse.com).

“This guy was hurting them, so they’re much better now without him.” He was just doing some things and preventing others from playing that are good. They have had two monster wins since his retirement and they play some good basketball. They have a very good talent. You knew they were going to play with this stuff and now they are playing well. Every game we play is a very difficult game, a big challenge and we can’t wait to be there.

Regardless of Boeheim’s intention, it’s probably best not to comment on players from other teams, especially in a way that could be interpreted as negative. This isn’t the first time he’s made such comments, claiming Georgetown guard James Akinjo – who left the program in 2019 – “wouldn’t pass the ball to anyone.” Akinjo has averaged 5.1 assists over 40 games for the Hoyas.

Syracuse plays Duke on Monday.



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