Former Duke basketball forward and Hall of Famer continue public feud

Duke basketball (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

The public feud between a former Duke basketball player and Hall of Fame head coach continues. 

Everyone has their opinion on the saga surrounding former Duke basketball freshman forward Jalen Johnson and his decision to opt out of the remainder of the 2020-21 season in order to prepare for the 2021 NBA Draft.

Johnson made the decision after he only logged eight minutes in Duke’s (11-8, 9-6 ACC) 69-53 victory over North Carolina State, its most complete game of the season to that point.

Since, the Blue Devils have looked even better, winning all three games following Johnson no longer officially being a part of the team. Duke has posted a 24-point win over Wake Forest, a one-point win over No. 7 Virginia, and a 14-point win over Syracuse since the opt-out.

The four-game winning streak has sparked the question, “Is Duke better without Jalen Johnson?” And the answer seems very, very obvious, but one former Blue Devil and current ESPN analyst still denies that the Blue Devils are a better team without the former five-star recruit.

Jay Bilas responded to what Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said on his radio show on Thursday night prior to the Orange’s (13-7, 7-6 ACC) matchup with the Blue Devils on Monday night.

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“He was just doing some things and keeping other people from playing that are good,” the Hall of Famer said. “They’ve had two monster wins since he’s opted out, and they’re playing good basketball. They’ve got very good talent. You knew they were going to play out of this thing, and now they’re playing well.”

“The idea that somehow [Duke is] better without Jalen Johnson, I think, is patently false,” Bilas said on Bald Men on Campus, which airs on the ACC Network.

The former Blue Devil went on to explain that this is not the first time the Syracuse head coach has negatively spoken about a player leaving his school for another program, citing former Georgetown point guard James Akinjo transferring to Arizona.

Boeheim then tried to walk back his comments on Saturday, making him look foolish for commenting on a team who he hasn’t seen play with or without its former freshman:

“This is no dispersion, casting dispersion on Jalen Johnson. I haven’t even seen Jalen Johnson play this year, to be honest. He’s a tremendous player. Probably be a great pro. I just made the observation, my opinion, that I thought they played better without him in those two games.”

Duke basketball drama continues after Monday’s victory

Then, Duke’s beatdown of Syracuse came on Monday night as the Blue Devils won 85-71 and Jim Boeheim was asked about the Jalen Johnson situation once again.

“They’re way better than they were. I mean, Jay Bilas knows something about basketball. I know more than he knows. I said they were better. They are better. Period,” Boeheim said after the loss.

“A week ago, Duke was out of the tournament. Completely out. Now they’re in. And they will be because they’ll win more games because they’re good. I just hate to be right.”

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Duke is 6-0 in games that Jalen Johnson has not played in and 5-8 in games which he did play.

You be the judge as to which Blue Devil team is “better.”

Duke returns to the court on Saturday night against the Louisville Cardinals (11-5, 6-4 ACC), a team the Blue Devils already lost to with Jalen Johnson.

Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00pm EST (ESPN) in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

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