With the NBA regular season winding down, who better to hear from than Charles Barkley? The opinionated TNT analyst never holds back and always tells it like he sees it, and in this interview he had plenty to talk about given the storylines that have popped up around the NBA in the last few weeks. The Heat have struggled since the All-Star break and look like they are losing their swagger, the Celtics are playing better than anyone in the Eastern Conference, there is a fight for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Bobcats are pulling away in the race for the most ping pong balls in the draft lottery, and of course the mess in Orlando won’t go away. With the playoffs right around the corner, things are getting very interesting around the league and Charles Barkley shares his thoughts on all of it.
Charles Barkley joined ESPN 1000 in Chicago with Waddle and Silvyto talk about how impressed he was with Anthony Davis when he watched him play during the NCAA Tournament, what he thinks of Steve Kerr saying Davis will be an NBA MVP in five years, if he thinks Michael Jordan would take Davis at number one if the Bobcats get the first pick, why he has some suspicions that Charlotte may not get the number one pick in the draft lottery, who he thinks is coming out of the Eastern Conference, why he doubts Miami’s chances of getting back to the NBA Finals, and his thoughts on the Stan Van Gundy-Dwight Howard situation in Orlando.
How impressed were you with the big kid from Kentucky, Anthony Davis the freshman?
“You know what, I like that kid. He seems like a very nice kid. It’s unfortunate he’s going to come out. I’m not big on these one-and-done guys. I wish we can keep them in college for two years. You know, he’s got to gain some weight. He’s probably got to gain 30-40 pounds if he’s going to play in the NBA.” People are really comparing him to some of the greats. Some comparisons to Tim Duncan and some guys compared him to Bill Russell. Steve Kerr told us that he thinks in five years, he’s going to be an MVP in the NBA. “First of all, Steve Kerr is wrong. I like Steve Kerr. I like Steve Kerr a lot, but he’s not going to be an MVP in five years. I don’t even know what position he’s going to play. He’s only about 6’10, so if he plays power forward, he’s not going to be just killing people at the power forward position. He’s a center in college, but there’s not many 6’10 centers in the NBA but I don’t like when they compare guys because we don’t know how these guys are going to turn out.”
I know. Greg Oden was being compared to Wilt Chamberlain a few years back.
“I know. How did that work out? And I pulled for that kid, because he’s a very nice young man, but you know what, we don’t know injuries. We don’t know what team he’s going to go to. Think about it, if he goes to one of these bad teams, he’s going to be fighting uphill. Some of these teams in the NBA are terrible. If he goes to a bad situation, he’s going to go out there and get his brains beat in and we don’t know how he’s going to handle that mentally.” You told us the story about Michael Jordan and Adam Morrison, the last time he had a really high pick. The Bobcats should, unless the lottery ball bounces the other way, get the number one pick. He’s not going to screw this up. He would take Anthony Davis, would he not? “I’ve got to tell you something, I’m really concerned about the number one pick in the draft this year. Well, number one, I think Michael would take Anthony Davis or I’d kill him (laughs). I can’t say this, but I’m going to be watching the draft lottery very closely because I don’t want no shenanigans.”
What are you alluding to? What do you think could happen?
“I’m going to be very leery if Anthony Davis ends up in Brooklyn. You know, I’m going to be very leery because I know the NBA has a lot riding on that new arena, especially if Deron Williams leaves New Jersey. They didn’t get Dwight Howard. I’m going to be very leery if New Jersey gets that number one pick.”
Are you a conspiracy theorist Chuck?
“I am. I am. (laughs) I am.”
You think somebody got freezer burned from dry ice in the old ping pong ball days when they put their hand in that?
“You know, I go back to Patrick Ewing, so I believe in the conspiracy theories.”
Chuck, you like the way the Bulls have played and you think they’re coming out of the East?
“I do think they’re coming out of the East. I thought the game last night with Rip Hamilton playing well was a great time. I really think they’re the best team in the East. When they play Miami, it’s going to be a knockdown, drag-out. I can’t wait for that series. I wish we had the East this year. I could have some fun between Miami and Chicago, because you know Chicago’s my favorite summer city in the world. I could have a little fun going between those two places. We could have some fun. The thing that’s interesting is I have no idea where I’m going in the West. I have zero idea where I’m going in the West. Those matchups are going to go down to the last day of the regular season. I have no idea what two cities we are going to be going to for the Western Conference Finals.”
Before we get to the East, is there a sleeper in the West you think can bounce up and represent the West in the Finals?
“The Memphis Grizzlies. They’re finally getting healthy. They went into Oklahoma City and beat them. They went into LA and beat them. We’ve got to wait until they get everybody healthy, but Zach Randolph is rounding into form. I’m not a big Oklahoma City fan because I think they don’t get easy baskets. I don’t think they can score enough down low. I think you can beat them up down low and score on them. I just don’t like jump shooting teams that are not great defensively.”
What is it about the Miami Heat that kind of leads you to believe they are not going to represent the East this year?
“I think that LeBron James has to play at a Michael Jordan type level every single night because that team has so many holes on it, between their bench and lack of scoring inside. I said this early in the year, they are only going to go as far as LeBron James takes them. I like Dwyane (Wade). Dwyane’s a terrific player. He got a lot of credit for winning the championship, but if you go back and look at that series, and he got the one game where he got 100 free throws, but Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning were the difference in that series. So people assume he’s the closer to be honest with you, but LeBron James is the best player in the NBA. If he doesn’t play at a crazy level and make those guys better, (Mario) Chalmers, Joel Anthony, (Udonis) Haslem, if he doesn’t get all those guys off, they can’t win, and I don’t think he gets enough credit for that.”
I have heard many times about star players in the NBA getting their coaches fired. I have never seen it play out in front of the cameras. What did you
think about what happened with Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy last week?
“That was one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve even seen in my life. I thought Stan Van Gundy was wrong for saying it at that particular moment. I’m not big on guys getting their coaches fired, I’m not big on guys getting their coaches fired. Whatever happened with Dwight, I’m not sure, but I’ve got to tell you something, whoever in upper management told Stan Van Gundy that, they should get fired immediately. To me, that’s a scumbag move to have a private conversation with a higher official, and they go back and tell the coach? That to me was one of the most scumbag moves I’ve ever heard of in the NBA. I use the analogy if the boss came to me and said, tell me my opinion of the show, and if I said Ernie (Johnson) or Kenny (Smith) should be fired, and he went behind my back and told those guys, our relationship could never be the same again. Yeah we might smile on TV and act like everything’s cool, but those guys should never trust me again. That’s the only way you can equate it. I love Dwight Howard, and I wanted him on the Bulls at the trade deadline. I’ve lost a lot of respect for him because I feel like he’s played like a dog the last several weeks.”
What he thinks about Howard denying that he wanted Van Gundy fired
“I wish he would own that to be honest with you. If he said that, just own it. Just come out and say ‘hey you know what, I did say that. Me and coach are not getting along. I want a new coach.’ You can’t walk up and put your arm around me. I think Dwight has done a lot of stuff wrong in this whole free agent thing, no question but think about this, he should come out and say ‘you know what, I did say that’ because he acted like he didn’t say it. That’s what disturbs me the most. Even though someone leaked that information, just own it. Just say ‘you know what, I did say that, and I stick by it.