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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.

Dwyane Wade signs ‘lifetime’ deal with Li-Ning

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MIAMI (AP) Dwyane Wade has signed a lifetime contract with Chinese apparel company Li-Ning.

Wade made the deal official at an event in Beijing on Wednesday with the company’s CEO and namesake Li Ning, who is revered in China for his gymnastics success.

Wade’s relationship with Li-Ning began in 2012, after he previously was an endorser for Converse and Jordan Brand. In addition to the continued production of basketball and lifestyle apparel, the new deal calls for Wade to take “a greater role” in youth developmental camps and basketball clinics in China and other parts of the world over the coming years.

Wade finished last season with the Miami Heat. He has not decided if he will return to the Heat next season, which would be his 16th in the NBA.

New Bulls forward Jabari Parker: ‘They don’t pay players to play defense’

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Jabari Parker never found his footing with the Bucks. Parker’s injuries and Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s ascension left Parker – a top recruit then No. 2 overall pick – trying (and often failing) to to fit into a complementary role he clearly never envisioned for himself.

After signing a contract to become the Bulls’ highest-paid player, Parker is unapologetically embracing a new mission.

Parker, via 670 The Score:

I just stick to my strengths. Look at everybody in the league. They don’t pay players to play defense. There’s only two people historically that play defense. I’m not going to say I won’t, but to say that’s a weakness is like saying that’s everybody’s weakness. Because I’ve scored 30 and 20 on a lot of guys that say they play defense.

If you know the game, you also know that everyone’s a pro, right? And you know that certain guys have an average. No matter what you do, they still get that average. They pay people to score the ball, and I would hope that somebody scores the ball on me if they pay them that much. So, I’m not saying that to cop out or nothing. It’s the NBA. We’re professionals. Everybody scores. It’s just about limiting them as much as you can, trying to contain them.

A better offense wins a championship.

Parker is generally right. Scoring is rewarded far more than defense. If NBA teams don’t want to encourage that attitude, they ought to pay players more for other skills. Until then, players like Parker – who has no salary guarantee beyond this season – will continue to be drawn to scoring.

Parker is also correct that certain players get their points-per-game average no matter what. What he fails to explain: If that player needs too many shots to get it, he hurts his team. Good defenders force inefficiency from their opponents.

But, again, players who get theirs in the points column are often rewarded in salary.

So, expect Parker to hunt his points during his upcoming contract year.

These quotes only reinforce what we’d already seen from Parker. He showed glimpses of strong defense during this year’s playoffs, but that was rare for him. His skill set and approach are offense-first.

And great offense probably beats great defense. But offenses are rarely reliably great. Defense more often can be. The Warriors, as exceptional as they are offensively, are also elite defensively. I’m not sure Parker grasps that.

It’s on Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to convince him, but managing this issue is easier said than done. Not only does Parker bring years of habits to Chicago, he’s playing to prove himself next season. The Bulls have a team option on him for 2019-20.

Parker will most positively affect winning by trying hard on both ends of the floor. He might most positively affect his bank account by saving his energy for offense.

You might not like him saying it, but it’s also reality.

Report: Kawhi Leonard warming to playing for Raptors

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Shortly after the Spurs traded Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors, word leaked he didn’t want to play for Toronto.

That stance is apparently softening.

Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN:

They’ve been in communication with Kawhi Leonard’s camp. He’s going to play. He’ll be in training camp. He’s healthy. He may be at USA Basketball’s minicamp next week which Gregg Popovich is coaching. That’s possible.

But the one thing I was told today he’s started to warm to the idea that he’s going to a contender. He’s got a team that could be as good as anybody in the Eastern Conference.

And now it’s on Toronto to try to recruit him, keep him. But in his mind right now, he’s headed to L.A. next year.

Leonard has little choice but to get on board. If he withheld services from the Raptors, they could fine him – eventually all the way up to his entire $20,099,189 salary for next season. Perhaps even more catastrophically, if it was determined he withheld services for more than 30 days of the season, he could be denied free agency entirely.

Maybe he could have finessed using his injury as an excuse rather than explicitly holding out. It has been threatened before. But that’s hard to manage and would have hurt his stock among all teams, including his preferred destination(s).

The best way for Leonard to get everything he wants is going to Toronto, playing well then becoming a free agent next summer.

I’d advise Leonard to keep an open mind until then. It might have made sense to posture against the Raptors to discourage a trade. But the trade has happened. Maybe he’ll join Toronto and like it more than he expects.

Paul George didn’t expect to stay with the Thunder, but he considered them throughout the season and found a long-term home. I don’t expect that to repeat with Leonard and the Raptors, but it could. Why close the option?

If not, Los Angeles will always be waiting.

Report: Spurs wanted to declare Kawhi Leonard out for the season, but he wouldn’t let them

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In February, Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again during the 2017-18 season. Leonard didn’t, but the Spurs never followed Popovich’s doubt with a clear statement on Leonard’s status. Instead, Popovich repeatedly deferred questions of Leonard’s health in the following months to Leonard’s “group.”

Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

Privately, officials within organization had hoped Leonard would let the Spurs declare him out for the season due to his injury, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Believing he’d eventually return, Leonard declined each time

Did Leonard not realize this made him – not the Spurs – look bad? Especially once it leaked he’d been cleared medically. Especially when he told the team repeatedly and public once he’d return soon but never did.

Perhaps, this was just genuine competitiveness. Maybe Leonard really thought, or at least wanted to believe, a return was around the corner. This could have been him valiantly never giving up.

But there’s a reason teams usually err on the side of caution in long-term injury announcements. It’s to protect the player from looking bad for remaining out if he’s not quite ready as quickly as initially projected.

The Pacers received a disabled-player exception for Paul George in 2014-15, and he still beat the odds to return late in the year. The Celtics called Gordon Hayward out for this season and weren’t going to stray from that public stance until he suited up, even when – for a moment – it appeared he had a chance of returning.

Even if the Spurs publicly declared him out for the rest of the year, nothing would have stopped Leonard from playing. It’s not a binding resolution. Instead, he repeatedly missing targeted return dates and looked soft to many because of it.

And he insisted on the strategy that led to that perception!

This is just more evidence those around Leonard might not know what they’re doing.