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Charles Barkley: NBA is worst it’s ever been (VIDEO)

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Charles Barkley is no stranger to saying ridiculous things on Inside the NBA. Maybe that’s why Thursday night’s diatribe about analytics, 3-point shooting, and the state of the NBA was a bit more palatable?

As the TNT crew discussed big men, Barkley piped up by saying he thought that posts had been relegated out of the modern game.

That was his jumping off point for at two-minute diversion on how the quality of the NBA product, in his opinion, is “the worst it’s ever been”.

Via Twitter:

If you’re not able to watch, here’s the meat of what Barkley said:

If you look at the NBA now, it’s the worst it’s ever been, in my opinion. Everybody want to use analytics, everybody want to shoot threes. Threes are great if you have a Steph Curry, a Klay Thompson, guys like that … But now, if you look around the NBA, everybody is trying to go small. We got a bunch of guys shooting threes who are not good shooters. Now we’re trying to to relegate the big man out of the game.

If you look at the big picture — and this ain’t no ‘old guy hating on the young guys’ — the NBA is the worst it’s ever been, top to bottom. We got one or two, three or four good teams, and the rest of the teams stink.

People think I hate analytics. I hate analytics when you try to justify a way to figure out how you’re going to win.

If you go back and look at the NBA for the last 30 years, you know who won the championship? The team with the best players.

Chuck got about a minute into his diatribe before Kevin Garnett cut him off to let him know it was only a 30-minute TV show, causing the entire crew to bust up laughing.

Barkley continued on for a full minute after that, zig-zagging around by saying people only like analytics “because they need a job for their son-in-law” (whatever that means) before finally coming to a graceful landing as the producers played music over his talking as though it were the Oscars.

There’s a lot to unpack here, but at this point I think we have to start with the probability that Barkley is continuing to say these things only to get people like me to write about them. He injects himself into the news it feels like on a weekly basis by saying something contrary to what has been common basketball knowledge around the league for something like a decade.

Then again, it seems possible that Barkley does believe these things. Of course, that doesn’t make much of what Barkley said even partly true.

One small example: NBA teams winning the championship have not always had the best players, given that “best” is a subjective term. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the championship in 2016, but many would argue the Golden State Warriors had the better players: a 2-time MVP in Stephen Curry, an all-time great shooter in Klay Thompson, and one of the league’s most crucial multi-talented players in Draymond Green.

There’s lots more to dispute here, and it’s tiring to get into it all. For example, Barkley contends the league has no parity, which is sort of hilarious when compared to the eras in which he played.

Meanwhile, there isn’t a championship contender in the modern NBA that doesn’t use analytics as a heavy influence on everything from personnel to in-game tactics. The biggest issue here, as it usually is when analytics are discussed by those who have not bothered to delve into its actual use is the perception of how it is used.

Barkley, like many others opposed to math in basketball, appear to believe that things are black or white. That teams only make decisions based on the numbers, or they don’t. That somehow teams never cross into the grey, to inform one about the other, or vice-versa.

Of course, meddling in the grey is exactly how it works in the NBA.

Teams — good teams — use a combination of analytics, lineup data, personal knowledge, sports psychology, tape review, interviews, feel, and good old-fashioned wits to decide everything that happens to an NBA franchise. Some teams weigh these influences differently than others. Some are good at weighing them, some are bad.

But there is not a single team in the NBA, even at the most extreme end, who are using analytics as sole judgement on decisions for their multi-million dollar franchise. Nor is there a team going entirely by feel or “the way it’s always been” or whatever non-alternative Barkley isn’t actually offering here.

There’s simply too much at stake, too much competition, and too many people involved in the decision-making process for that to be even remotely possible, much less true.

Yet this is obviously how Barkley appears to feel given his comments on TNT. He seems to put us down this rabbit hole deeper and deeper every month, and there’s nothing to do now but report on it, refute it, and hope his position isn’t doing too much damage to the league.

The NBA is perhaps as good as it’s ever been. The product is stellar, revenues are up, interest in the league is spiking, and the players are as well-trained, prepared, and analyzed as they’ve ever been.

I don’t know what Chuck is seeing, but we’re not looking at the same game. For Barkley, maybe that’s the whole problem.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.