Luke DeCock

The odd man out, Harrison Barnes sits, watches and waits — DeCock

Harrison Barnes, standing at right, and DeAndre Jordan in Rio.
Harrison Barnes, standing at right, and DeAndre Jordan in Rio.

Harrison Barnes didn't feel like talking, and he uncharacteristically had little to say. It's not hard to figure out why.

The 12th and final player invited to join the U.S. Olympic team, the former North Carolina star has become a spare part in Rio. After playing in wins over China and Venezuela, albeit as the last player off the bench, Barnes has not played in the past three games, narrow wins over Australia, Serbia and France. Every other U.S. player has appeared in every game, with U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski relying heavily on a five-man first unit and a six-man rotation in the second unit.

“You never know when your number is going to be called on,” Barnes said after Tuesday's U.S. practice at the gym of powerful soccer club Flamengo. “I'm just trying to help my team win a gold medal. That's the most important thing.”

Veteran Duke observers know this as the Alex Murphy-Michael Gbinije-Semi Ojeleye treatment, that if you're not in Krzyzewski's plans, you're really not in Krzyzewski's plans -- although it’s something that would never have happened at Duke had he chosen the Blue Devils instead of North Carolina. And since the Americans' issues have primarily been defensive, and defense isn't at the top of Barnes' resume, there hasn't been a dire need to call on him.

But it's a little odd that an NBA champion and max-value free-agent signing doesn't even see the floor when the other 11 players aren't exactly getting the job done with ease. So for now, Barnes sits. And watches. And waits.

“Anything I see on the court, I can tell let guys know individually, or as a team,” Barnes said. “Everyone's trying to do their part to win.”

Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

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