Duke basketball: ESPN instigates absurd attack on Tre Jones

Duke basketball point guard Tre Jones (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Duke basketball point guard Tre Jones (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Duke basketball bad guys drive the game’s popularity, so it’s no surprise some now seem hellbent on naming the next one.

Tre Jones led a Duke basketball clinic inside the Breslin Center in East Lansing on Tuesday night.

But while the sophomore point guard was accumulating 20 points, 12 assists, and three steals against nearly consensus preseason national player of the year Cassius Winston, anti-Duke Twitter was hung up on one play.

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You probably know the play: Jones’ assertion-of-dominance fastbreak two and a half minutes into No. 10 Duke’s eventual 87-75 revenge win at No. 11 Michigan State.

Though the words and emoji ESPN chose to caption the above clip are convenient if someone was trying to convince Twitterverse that Jones is the culprit — some who responded felt duped, thinking the clip would be more disturbing than it was — one could still assume the disturbingly influential network’s intentions were actually innocent.

Besides, those who haven’t lost their vision due to extreme Duke hate can see for themselves that the entirety of the transition bucket is, in essence, Jones simply explaining basketball — by example — to the home team’s clutz, sophomore guard Foster Loyer.

Regardless of ESPN’s motive to tweet the clip the way it did — and the fact that during the broadcast, ESPN’s Jay Bilas, a former Duke basketball player, expressed confusion over the foul call, just like so many others who seem to regularly take whatever opinion goes against Duke, even when the tape discredits the opinion — the sequence is worth replaying and recapping simply because it remains 100 percent hysterical:

  1. After telegraphing a pass to Loyer at the top of the key on Michigan State’s end of the floor, Jones was on his way to humiliating the Spartans by way of the hoops equivalent of a pick-six.
  2. As Jones darted toward paydirt, Loyer looked like a lost puppy as he pointlessly chased after the thief.
  3. So at the top of the key on Duke’s end, as Loyer seemingly tried to stop and ask for directions, Jones shifted his own direction with a behind-the-back dribble.
  4. At this point, Loyer had stumbled across Jones’ lane, forcing the guards to graze one another, and then he appeared to suddenly forget how to run, then how to hobble, then how to stand, and then how to crawl.
  5. And so then Loyer just laid on his back like a newborn, flailing his limbs as if he was begging Jones to just stop and coddle him.
  6. But Jones was already in flight for a layup, left with no choice but to plant his right foot on the already broken toy that Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo probably shouldn’t have placed on the court in the first place.
  7. Adding insult to surprisingly no reports of injury, the ref correctly called an and-one blocking foul against Loyer for not giving Jones space to land, and he could have hit him with a flagrant for dangerously reaching up at Jones’ legs/crotch or a technical for throwing his arms up and whining.

Now, let’s go back and try to peg ESPN’s thoughts behind tweeting Jones’ highlight — a.k.a., Sparty’s symbolic lowlight. One could assume that with the masses of anti-Duke folks now having neither a Zion Williamson Party nor Grayson Allen Bash to furiously obsess about, ESPN is attempting to stir up interest and ratings by villainizing yet another tough-minded, unapologetically uber-competitive Blue Devil.

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This recipe has obviously worked well for the network pretty much ever since Christian Laettner stomped out Kentucky’s feel-good story in 1992. And ESPN’s latest Duke-jab tweet — or what sure looks like one, considering whoever typed the tweet could have easily made mention of Jones having no choice but to come crashing down on the overmatched, inept defender — continues to serve as a gathering place for fans of less successful programs to display two types of jokes:

  1. The type they intend, which involves more nonsense than humor
  2. Themselves

Just for giggles, let’s peek at some of the comments under the above ESPN tweet about Jones:

  • “Thug”
  • “Assault”
  • “Duke tradition right there”
  • “Very Laettner-ish”
  • “Bad sportsmanship”
  • “How was this a foul on Michigan State?” (To which one Duke basketball fan answered, probably too clearly for the primary audience to understand, “Simple. Player has to be able to land.”)
  • “How about he helps the kid up from the floor after stepping on his chest!! This is December basketball…” (Yes, shame on Jones for not also holding his hand while singing Kumbaya)
  • “Ok, the Duke guy totally tripped him and then landed on him.” (Go back and pause the above clip at 0:04…with his back to Jones and his steps erratic and unbalanced — toddler-like — Loyer flung his arms back while flapping about in Jones’ path, thereby leaving Jones no way to avoid brushing Loyer’s leg during one of his own leg’s confident strides)
  • “He knew what he was going [sic]. The spirit of Greyson Allen lives on.” (One Duke basketball fan’s response: “Grayson*…A for effort”)
  • “And a foul on MSU, what a joke…refs favor Duke every game.” (Game’s foul count: Duke 21, Michigan State 15)
  • “I like how the ref steps over the Michigan State player, just to rub his nose in it.”

And by that conspiracy theory, it looks like we can all at least agree Loyer was basically in everyone’s way — i.e., the stage was too big while the opponent’s talent was too legit. And we should now all be able to see that the sports world wants to make Jones the next Duke basketball villain right away (freshman center Vernon Carey Jr. doesn’t fit the mold, and no other Blue Devil has yet proven to be enough of a consistent threat to wear the nametag).

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If we all can agree the Michigan State game was indeed Jones’ first with that unofficial title of most detested Blue Devil, then we should all also agree Jones seems to thrive under such a title. His next chance to exhibit his growing stardom for Duke (8-1, 0-0 ACC) — and likely attract a few more haters in the process — comes in another hostile environment, at Virginia Tech (6-2, 1-0 ACC) on Friday at 7:00 p.m. (ACCN).

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Finally, we absolutely must agree that had the play included Grayson Allen in place of either Jones or Loyer, those who loathe the Blue Devils the most would today be clamoring for an arrest warrant and a prison sentence.

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