charles barkley
Twitter

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

23 Comments

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.

Cavaliers were clutch all season, then again in it’s biggest moment

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Cleveland Cavaliers had the point differential of a 43-39 team this season, just a couple of games above .500. Yet they finished the season 50-32, seven games better than their differential suggested — the highest variance in the NBA.

Why? Because LeBron James and the Cavaliers were clutch. In games that were within five points in the final five minutes this season, Cleveland was 30-15 with a +18.2 points per 100 net rating (second best in the NBA, behind Houston).

That has carried over to the playoffs, where the Cavaliers came into Game 7 Sunday night 6-1 in clutch games with an insane +36.2 per 100.

Game 7 was another clutch one — it was 76-72 Cleveland with five minutes to go — and once again the Cavaliers won, advancing to the NBA Finals. This is the fourth straight year for this team, and the eighth year in a row for LeBron to make it to the NBA’s biggest stage.

In the final five minutes of Game 7, LeBron had six points, while the Boston Celtics team had 7. When we say the Cavaliers are clutch, it all starts with LeBron (as do all things Cavaliers at this point).

“He craves those moments. He loves those moments,” Kyle Korver said after LeBron was clutch in the Cavaliers’ Game 6 win that set up Sunday’s showdown, but what he said applies now, too. “When the game’s on the line, when the season’s on the line, he’s been rising up. That’s what the great players do.”

LeBron accepts that challenge, and through the postseason he has had an impressive 58 true shooting percentage, with a ridiculous 44.3 percent usage rate. Bottom line, he has had to carry the Cavaliers in the clutch, and he has done so efficiently.

“I’m the leader of this team, and I’m going to give what I’ve got,” LeBron said. “My teammates, they respect that.”

It’s going to take more than clutch LeBron and friends to win in the Finals — both of the teams in the West are much tougher than anything the Cavaliers have seen so far. However, we know that LeBron is going to give everything he has left.

And if the game is close late, don’t bet against the Cavaliers.

 

 

 

Jayson Tatum throws down epic dunk on LeBron James (VIDEO)

2 Comments

The Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers held a barnburner of a Game 7 on Sunday, with Boston’s Jayson Tatum going head-to-head with LeBron James.

For his part, LeBron was everything we expected in a Game 7. The King played spectacularly, willing his Cavaliers squad to yet another NBA Finals appearance as Cleveland edged Boston.

But before things were sealed, and the game decided, Tatum got off a raucous dunk right in James’ eye that made many wonder if the torch was on the cusp of being passed.

The play came with 6:45 left in the fourth quarter with Tatum driving down the lane and LeBron moving over to help recover on defense. It would have been easy to anticipate another big LeBron playoff block, but Tatum continued his surprising season by dunking all over The King.

Via Twitter:

Cleveland won the game, 87-79, but Tatum’s dunk on the big stage is just one of many reasons why the Celtics are going to be a complete hassle next year when they’re back to being fully healthy.

LeBron James is the greatest player of all-time

16 Comments

He’s done it again. LeBron James, the King in the East, played 48 minutes en route to his eighth straight NBA Finals appearance after beating the Boston Celtics in Game 7 at TD Garden on Sunday, 87-79.

Bow down to the greatest player of all-time.

Much has been made of LeBron’s place in history as his legacy has began to galvanize toward the end of his career. The conversation has raged on about LeBron vs. Michael Jordan, or Wilt Chamberlain, or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Preference varies greatly between fans, while some still pick the centrist route and say there’s no simple way to compare across eras. There’s been mathematical attempts to rank the two, and even MJ’s old teammates have said LeBron is a more complete player.

On Sunday, James bounced yet another Eastern Conference Finals opponent, carrying his teammates on his shoulders and playing without All-Star Kevin Love. There was never a doubt for many watching Sunday’s matchup in Massachusetts. Before the final buzzer, LeBron had won 23 straight Eastern Conference playoff series. His determination was absolute, and the cards were always stacked against Boston even given their postseason record at home.

You could sort of just see it coming.

James was the motivating force in the first half for Cleveland, scoring 17 points while no other teammates tallied in double digits. The Cavaliers shot an abysmal 12 percent from beyond the arc, and the Celtics looked like they would be able to control the rest of the game as the crowd at home motivated them forward.

But Cleveland came roaring back in the second half, continuing to put on a defensive show, the kind we would not have expected of them during the regular season. Without Love, the Cavs had to make do with Jeff Green, who turned in a surprising performance. Green scored 19 points, shot 50 percent from the field, and grabbed eight rebounds.

In the face of a strengthening Cavaliers attack, the Celtics seems to retreat. Boston’s final offensive possessions in the fourth quarter were hectic, slow, and unsuccessful. While the Cavaliers tried their hardest during the final eight minutes to get Al Horford switched on to LeBron in isolation sets, the Celtics surprisingly mirrored the same offensive tactics. Instead of playing their regular offense, or running plays to get shooters free, or trying to attack the paint against James (who was in foul trouble) Boston resorted to trying to exploit any mismatches found through Cleveland’s switches.

The result was four field goals inside the 3-point line for LeBron in the fourth quarter, as much as the entire Celtics roster combined.

The play of the game came with 1:04 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Cavaliers leading by nine. LeBron was out on the break, with Marcus Morris trailing behind him. Morris went to foul LeBron, making no obvious attempts on the ball as he grabbed onto the Cavaliers star’s shoulders. Even with all of his might, Morris couldn’t stop James from scoring while drawing the foul. It was indicative of the entire fourth quarter for the Celtics, who scraped, clutched and grabbed as much as they could but did not have an answer for LeBron.

So here we are, with LeBron having won another Game 7 out in the Eastern Conference as he heads to another Finals. He probably won’t match Jordan’s championship mark. But Jordan didn’t match Russell’s. Or Horry’s. Or Havlichek’s, either.

Instead, we have to rely on what we see in front of our eyes combined with their dominance, weighted for context. Sunday night’s performance should help push LeBron over Jordan, if he wasn’t there already. James is a more complete player, which has always been apparent, and now he’s survived every challenge that’s been thrown at him. Declaring James the best player of all-time did not come because of Sunday’s game. It’s been years in the making, throughout the entirety of his 15-year career. The win over Boston was just an indication of his place in history.

LeBron has gone nuclear with 40+ point performances. He was part of the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history against the Golden State Warriors. He beat the Indiana Pacers all by himself, in the playoffs, just this very season. James has had a career season at age 33, playing 48 minutes in the 100th game of the 2017-18 season. LeBron has willed his way to yet another NBA Finals, with perhaps his worst team since the 2006-07 squad that was swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the season’s final series. To add to the accomplishment, LeBron pushed this Cavaliers squad past a stunningly good team in the Celtics, on the road, and without Love.

James is the greatest American sports story of our generation, and he’s the best player the NBA has ever seen. If you disagree, that’s OK. But after Sunday night, you’d be hard pressed to convince me otherwise.

Watch Victor Oladipo drive the pace car at the Indianapolis 500 (VIDEO)

Getty
Leave a comment

Victor Oladipo is Indiana’s favorite son after the Indiana Pacers guard blasted through the competition during the 2017-18 NBA season.

Oladipo averaged 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and led the league with 2.4 steals per game. Oladipo’s 3-point shooting improved year-over-year, and his VORP skyrocketed in his new leadership role. Many feel the Pacers won the Paul George trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder thanks to Oladipo.

Thanks in part to his stellar play, Oladipo was invited to drive the pace car at the start of the 2018 Indianapolis 500. Turns out he was pretty good at it.

Via Twitter:

Oladipo is apparently going to be honored with the steering wheel from the pace car he drove. No doubt taking part in a classic local sporting event like the Indy 500 will help ingrain Oladipo into the sports fabric in Indianapolis even further.