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.

Lakers reportedly ‘seriously considered’ Westbrook trade for Hield, Turner

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“If you make that trade, it has to be the right one, you have one shot to do it. So we’re being very thoughtful around the decisions on when and how to use draft capital in a way that will improve our roster.”

That was Lakers GM Rob Pelinka on media day talking about the possibility of the Lakers trading the only two first-round picks they control this decade — 2027 and 2029 — to upgrade this roster around LeBron. Pelinka was clear the Lakers were committed to building a winner around LeBron, “We have one of the great players in LeBron James to ever play the game, and he committed to us on a long-term contract, a three-year contract… He committed to our organization. That’s gotta be a bilateral commitment, and it’s there.”

But should that include a Russell Westbrook trade to Indiana for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner? Shams Charania of The Athletic updated and added to the extensive previous reporting on this trade, saying the Lakers kept the door open right up to the start of training camp but didn’t pull the trigger.

Vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, owner Jeanie Buss and senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis seriously considered sending Westbrook and unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 to the Pacers for center Myles Turner and guard Buddy Hield, sources said. They held a series of meetings in the days leading up to camp to analyze the possible Pacers deal from every angle, with the views of Ham and Lakers executives Joey and Jesse Buss also being strongly considered in the process. The organization even delayed the midweek news conference for Pelinka and Ham as the debate continued…

If they were going to gamble on a make-or-break move of this magnitude, the thinking went, then everyone had to have confidence in the same vision. But when that wasn’t the case, sources say, the choice was made by Pelinka to remain patient and see, yet again, if Westbrook might find a way to make this imperfect fit with the Lakers work.

Hield and Turner would absolutely improve the Lakers. Turner can play the five, is an elite shot blocker who could provide a strong defensive back line next to Anthony Davis, and is a respectable 3-point shooter who can space the floor. He’s a natural fit. Hield brings shooting that the Lakers have coveted for years and need more of now.

That trade would have moved the Lakers up the ladder to a solid playoff team in the West. Would that trade make the Lakers contenders? Probably not. It still would have come back to the bubble version of Davis and LeBron being ready for the final 16-game sprint to have a puncher’s chance (that may be the case regardless of other moves). Also, it would have messed with future free agency plans in Los Angeles — the Lakers can have around $30 million in cap space next summer to chase Kyrie Irving (although Shams reports that’s not in their plans) or other name players, Hield is owed $19.3 million next season and Turner will be a free agent the Lakers would need to re-sign. This deal would end the dream of a free agent taking a little less than the max to come to the Lakers (a dream not likely to come to reality anyway).

As Pelinka said, the Lakers have one shot with trading their two picks to upgrade the roster — they have to hit a home run, this can’t be a solid single. The Lakers were not convinced Hield and Turner could be that home run tandem.

So Los Angeles will go into the season with a starting five of Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, LeBron, Davis, and Damian Jones, with a bench of Patrick Beverley, Thomas Bryant, Austin Reaves, and Dennis Schroder. The Lakers will see if it fits, how far it looks like this group can take them under new coach Darvin Ham, and watch the market to see what other stars could become available.

The Lakers aren’t done dealing, but it looks like a deal with Indiana is now in the rearview mirror.

PBT Podcast: Philadelphia 76ers 2022-23 season preview

2022-23 Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
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The Philadelphia 76ers are title contenders — if James Harden and Joel Embiid can play up to their potential on the biggest of NBA stages. That hasn’t always happened before, particularly with Harden.

Those two are now set up well. Philadelphia learned its lessons from the playoff loss to Miami last season. GM Daryl Morey rounded out the roster with more toughness and two-way players in the form of P.J. Tucker, Danuel House and DeAnthony Melton. Add in the development of Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle and you have a deep roster of quality players — down to BBall Paul.

Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia joins me to discuss if Doc Rivers is ready to take this team to the next level, and if all the additions can come together when it matters. Can Harden shake his history of playoff reputation and lead a team to the Finals?

You can always listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

When will LeBron James break Kareem’s all-time scoring record?

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LeBron James is trying not to think about it too much.

“The only time I’ve kind of like thought about it is when someone, you know, been posting on social and it went through my scroll, through my feed, and I’ve seen it,” LeBron said at Lakers’ media day. “And every single time I’m kind of in awe of it, like, wow.”

The wow is breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time NBA scoring record.

It was a record thought almost untouchable at 38,387 points, but now LeBron sits just 1,326 points shy of breaking it — health willing, he should pass Kareem this season.

When? Well, that takes a little math and speculation.

LeBron scored 30.3 points a game last season, but the two seasons prior to that it was closer to 25 points a game. If we split the difference and land at 27.5 points per game, it would take 48-49 games. We have to assume that 37-year-old LeBron (turning 38 just before the New Year) will sit out at least a couple of those first games, pushing this back a few games.

Considering LeBron could slide back in scoring to close to 25 a game again, the smart bet is he breaks Kareem’s record in late January or early February. The Lakers have a five-game East Coast road trip that includes Boston and New York starting Jan. 28 and running through Feb. 4, and that’s about the window.

“To sit here and to know that I’m on the verge of breaking probably the most sought-after record in the NBA, something that people say will probably never be done, I think it’s just super like humbling, for myself,” LeBron said. “I think it’s super cool.

“And you know, obviously Kareem has had his differences, with some of my views and some of the things that I do. But listen, at the end of the day, to be able to be right in the same breath as a guy to wear the same [Lakers] uniform, a guy that was a staple of this franchise along with Magic and Big Game [James Worthy] over there for so many years, especially in the 80s, and a guy that does a lot off the floor as well. I think it’s just super duper dope for myself to be even in that conversation.”

Having been in the spotlight for as long as LeBron has — remember he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high schooler — he can be very practiced, very polished with the media. His brand is smooth, as are his dealings with the press in general.

However, when talking about passing Abdul-Jabbar, it felt like LeBron’s guard was down. He was raw, more reflective and genuinely moved.

“You guys always see me use my hashtag #thekidfromakron and that those are the moments where I really think about that kid from Akron. Walking those streets and, you know, playing basketball when I had actually had a basketball and the hoop, or actually just walking around and air dribbling and shooting into it and invisible hoop you know, and counting 5…4…3…2…1 and, you know, making game-winning shots.

“I’m not going to put too much pressure on it throughout the season. But I think it’s a pretty historical moment when it gets here and you know, as long as my family and friends are all there that’s that’s the most important for me.”

LeBron’s family will undoubtedly be there, and the whole world will be watching. Longevity and LeBron’s ability to be great into age 38 (and beyond) is part of his GOAT argument — and there is no better cornerstone of that argument than being the game’s all-time leading scorer.

Suns fall to hot shooting Adelaide 36ers from Australia, 134-124

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The Adelaide 36ers may be from Australia’s National Basketball League, but they are professional players — leave them wide open and they will hit shots.

Phoenix treated Sunday like their first preseason game (it was) and the 36ers hit 24 3-pointers on their way to an upset of the Suns, 134-124. The 36ers were the aggressors all night long, playing team basketball and putting Phoenix on its heels.

It’s just preseason. One preseason game is not a bellwether for the season, there should be little more than raised eyebrows in Phoenix. However, with their last game being a crushing 33-point loss to Dallas which eliminated them from the playoffs a season ago, this was not the palate cleanser that Phoenix fans were hoping for.

Craig Randall — you may remember him from the University of Memphis and Tennessee-Martin — scored 35 points while Robert Franks added 32. The 3-point shot is the great equalizer in basketball and the 36ers were on fire.

 

The last NBA team to lose to an International squad before Sunday was the Thunder in 2016 to Real Madrid. The year before, Turkish power Fenerbahce beat Brooklyn in the preseason. It does happen.

Reserve point guard Cameron Payne led the Suns with 23 points, while Deandre Ayton looked solid and dropped 22, as did Mikal Bridges, who also had 22. Devin Booker had 13 points and Chris Paul dished out 12 dimes.

With the size of Ayton and the athletic slashing of Bridges, the Suns scored 64 points in the paint, more than doubling the 36ers. But math was not on the Suns’ side, as they traded twos for threes and kept falling behind.

This is great for the NBL and its efforts to grow the brand — the 36ers will now take on the Thunder later this week.

It’s a shrug and move on game for the Suns. Expect a more focused effort from the team next game.