Coach K benches Jabari Parker while Duke loses at Notre Dame
Jabari Parker is the leading candidate for National Player of the Year. So why was he on the bench in the final minutes of Duke's loss at Notre Dame?
Mike Krzyzewski has four national championships, two Olympic gold medals and more wins at the Division I level than any other man who's ever coached in college. He's been in the Hall of Fame almost as long as I've been out of school. He knows more about basketball than I probably know about anything. And he's smarter in general than I am, too.
Might as well start by saying all that, you know, so nobody else has to say it for me.
Coach K is the best and above being questioned.
I get that and pretty much agree with it.
But, that said, can you really bench Jabari Parker in the final minutes of a close game? Obviously, you can, because that's precisely what Krzyzewski did in Saturday's 79-77 loss at Notre Dame. But was it wise? Should it have happened? Is it sensible to park one of the nation's best offensive players when you're down six points in the final four minutes?
I think the answers to those questions are a little less clear.
Yes, Parker struggled Saturday and finished just 2-of-10 from the field and 1-of-5 from 3-point range. He also turned it over twice and got put on a poster by Notre Dame's Pat Connaughton. I watched the game. I saw what you saw. But I guess I've always been a big believer in riding your best players in crunch-time, and that's why I was surprised to see Parker -- who is undeniably Duke's best player, arguably the nation's best player and quite possibly the player who will be picked No. 1 overall in June's NBA Draft -- on the bench in the closing minutes of Duke's first ACC game and first true road contest.
"He wasn't playing well," is the explanation Krzyzewski offered afterward.
And I suppose that's good enough.
But would LeBron James be on the court in the final minutes of a close game regardless of how he was playing? What about Kevin Durant? Or Paul George? Or any NBA great? Just so we're clear, I'm not suggesting Parker is James or any of those dudes. But he kinda is at the college level, and yet he watched the last 3:35, which included a turnover in the final 10 seconds by teammate Rodney Hood, who was otherwise fabulous while getting 27 points.
Perhaps, in the long run, this will benefit Parker and Duke. I'm not too dumb to recognize that. Maybe the freshman will learn something from it that'll make the Blue Devils better in March. That's possible, I guess. But it should be noted that Duke only scored two field goals in the final five minutes, and that one of those was a meaningless layup near the buzzer. In other words, I'm not sure things could've been worse for Duke if Parker was involved, but I can absolutely imagine a scenario where they might've been better.
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