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Barkley on feud with LeBron: “I have never said anything personal about a guy”

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Charles Barkley seems to have finally settled the back-and-forth battle going on between him and Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James. On Thursday night, the TNT broadcaster sat on the Inside the NBA set and spoke his mind about the feud.

In general terms, Barkley came out by trying to explain that he felt he had never gone personal with his repeated attacks on LeBron, much less any other player.

Via TNT:

Number one, I have no problem with what LeBron said. Everything’s not true, but most of that is true. I’ve done some stupid things in my life. That being said, I’ve been doing this job for 15, 16 years. I have never said anything personal about the guy and I am never going to. Ever. All my criticism of any player or comments on any team is strictly about basketball.

What I said was, if I’m the best player in the world — which he is — he has Kyrie Irving who’s an All-Star; he has Kevin Love who’s an All-Star; he has Tristan Thompson who’s a terrific player; I take my chances against anybody. I don’t need any help if I got those guys. That would be my personal opinion. I stick by that.

Him saying they’re top heavy? I’m pretty sure Carmelo would take those three guys. I’m pretty sure Russell Westbrook would take those three guys. But, like I say, I’m never going to get personal. It’s been fun to me, listening and watching.

I play golf the last two days and people left me a bunch of messages on my jackass phone. I have two phones, I have a private cell and I have my jackass phone for the rest of the people. My jackass phone has been blowing up. Thank God I don’t keep it with me, but like I say, LeBron is one of the 10 greatest players I’ve ever seen. He’s an amazing man. What him and his guys have done business-wise is amazing. But my comments were what I said, I stick by them, but I’m never going to say something personal about another NBA player.

Do I take exception to it? Ernie, I’ve done some stupid things in my life. I have to live with that. In our position, when you say stuff, people gonna come back at you. Like I said, every day, my friends, I have great friends. Number one, I flunked Spanish in high school, and I lost Jeopardy to Martha Stewart. He left off a couple things I had done wrong in my life. But like I said, I did some stupid things in my life. That does not make my argument less valid. Like I say, I’m pretty sure Carmelo Anthony is a hell of a player and would love to have Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, and Tristan Thompson. Same thing with Russell Westbrook. But my argument with LeBron was strictly basketball related.

That’s not to say Chuck hasn’t said some boneheaded things. He’s said some ridiculous stuff about basketball, obviously, but overstepped his reach talking Ferguson and race relations in recent years.

It also might be a stretch to say he’s never gone personal toward any NBA player. He called the Golden State Warriors “girly” in their approach to basketball, some kind of odd attempt at applying normative gender roles to the act of 3-point shooting. He said LeBron should have called the movie “Trainwreck” — in which he starred with Amy Schumer and Bill Hader — “Trainwreck 2” after the Cavaliers lost in the NBA Finals in 2015. He called LeBron a punk after The Decision. His beef with Michael Jordan is long-standing.

I can’t remember if Barkley, to my knowledge, has ever baldly attacked current or former NBA player during his time as an analyst, and although the list above is all basketball-related I’d be hard-pressed to call them “impersonal”.

Anyway, it appears that Barkley has taken a shot at the gentleman’s way out while still remaining attached to his opinion.

Let’s hope the dust has settled once and for all. It probably hasn’t.

Shaq, meanwhile, had a moment of tension with Barkley after all was said and done:

Report: Knicks to discuss coaching vacancy with Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer

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Mike Budenholzer is restless in Atlanta, seeing a rebuild coming and looking at other jobs (something Hawks management is fine with). He went down the road a ways with the Suns before pulling out of that process, but he’s still looking around.

The Knicks are casting a wide net in their search, talking to virtually everyone looking for coaching jobs.

So, this seemed inevitable, right? Budenholzer and the Knicks are going to talk, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This will be very preliminary. The Knicks have already had some level of conversation with Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse, David Blatt, Mike Woodson, and TNT analyst Kenny Smith (Jackson and Fizdale are the rumored early leaders). Budenholzer has established a style and culture in Atlanta, giving the franchise a path forward. New York could certainly use that.

However, the Knicks job comes with real challenges, too. That starts with James Dolan as owner and the erratic, at times paranoid culture he has created there. Also, expectations in New York are always high, but the team will be without Kristaps Porzigis for at least half (maybe all) of the upcoming season as he recovers from an ACL injury, and that puts a ceiling on the team in the short term. Is all that worth leaving Atlanta for?

 

Stephen Curry to begin “modified” practices with Warriors

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Golden State has flipped the switch in the first round, going up 3-0 on overmatched San Antonio. The Warriors have been outscoring the Spurs by 20.2 points per 100 possessions in the series, allowing less than a point per possession on defense and scoring when and where they want. Kevin Durant is averaging 27.3 points per game, Klay Thompson is shooting 63.3 percent from three and scoring 25.7 points per game, and the Warriors are clicking.

But they are not yet whole — they need Stephen Curry back. Not for this round, but before the Western Conference Finals for sure.

Curry was re-evaluated Friday and will begin practicing with the team in a limited — or “modified” to use the team’s term — way.

The target has always been a return somewhere during the second round, and that still seems to be on track. That is also a little faster than traditional for a Grade 2 MCL sprain, which can take up to two months to heal (not the 4-6 weeks of the Warriors timeline), but the Warriors are being cautious here for now.

Eventually, the Warriors will need him back — their offense is built around Curry and his ball movement and movement off the ball. Curry’s gravity to draw defenders, even when he doesn’t have the ball, opens up the floor for others. Put simply, if he’s 28 feet from the bucket on the weak side defenders still have to watch and be near him, and help defenders need to be aware, which pulls the defense to wherever he is. Without Curry and the Warriors take more midrange jumpers, it’s just in the first round series against the Spurs they are hitting them.

 

Kenyon Martin: I once played high

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Former NBA commissioner David Stern said the league began testing for marijuana because players complained of other players playing high. Chauncey Billups said he knew teammates who played better high.

But Stephen Jackson is the rare former NBA player who admitted to playing high.

Now, he has company.

Kenyon Martin – who played for the Nets, Nuggets, Clippers, Knicks and Bucks in a 15-year career – via Bleacher Report:

We were playing in Indiana one day. I wasn’t feeling well. I had a hamstring, a hip or something. So, I smoked. I wasn’t going to play originally. So, we got to the arena, and I’m like, “I feel good.” I went and told the trainer, “I’m going to go today.” I went out there and had a great game.

If you want to guess which game this was, here are the possibilities.

This was part of a great feature on marijuana in the NBA and NFL. Matt Barnes, Al Harrington and Gary Paton also participate. I highly recommend (pun intended) watching it in full.

Nuggets president Tim Connelly: Next season playoffs or bust

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The Nuggets have steadily improved over the last four years – 30-52 to 33-49 to 40-42 to 46-36.

But even 46 wins weren’t enough to get Denver into the playoff this season, extending the postseason drought to five years.

Nuggets president Connelly, via Gina Mizell of The Denver Post:

On if next season is “playoffs or bust”:

“I think we’re there. How many times can you be the bridesmaid? Our young core, three of our best players are 23 (Gary Harris), 22 (Jokic) and 21 (Jamal Murray), and they’ve proven they’re capable of doing it at the highest level. I think all of us are, quite frankly, sick of this time of the year having a press conference.”

There’s certainly something to be said for injecting urgency. The Nuggets are already good enough to make the playoffs. They just happened to play in a historically deep Western Conference. But that doesn’t mean they can’t take more responsibility.

Denver lost to the Hawks (twice), Grizzlies (twice without Mikey Conley), Mavericks, Kings and Nets this season. Flip any of those games, and the Nuggets would have made the playoffs.

But I’m not sure what “or bust” means.

Connelly said Michael Malone would return as coach next season. If Denver misses the playoffs, would he get fired? Would Connelly come on the hot seat? What if the Nuggets again produce a record that typically qualifies for the postseason?

Even if Denver misses the playoffs next year, the 2019-20 team would have a 22-year-old Jamal Murray, 25-year-old Gary Harris and probably a 24-year-old Nikola Jokic under contract. That’s still a pretty good place to be.

Because of Jokic’s rapid ascent, the Nuggets are trying to accelerate the timeline. They most notably signed Paul Millsap last summer. (Injury cost him most of the season and contributed to Denver falling short.) They could also emphasize the present by re-signing Will Barton this offseason.

But playoffs or not next year, the Nuggets have a bright future. Connelly just doesn’t want them leaning on that excuse, though following through on his edict could create complications if Denver again narrowly misses the postseason with a good record.