Charles Barkley isn’t buying the Nets’ resurgence in 2014.
The Hall of Famer and colorful TNT analyst scoffed at the notion that
Brooklyn’s improved play since the start of the new year – the Nets are
11-4 heading into Thursday night’s game against the Spurs – meant the
team had become a factor in the Eastern Conference.
“The Nets stink, man,” Barkley said on a conference call promoting
TNT’s coverage of next weekend’s All-Star festivities. “They lost their
best player in Brook Lopez, Deron Williams has been inconsistent,
they’re beating up on a bunch of ugly chicks in the Eastern Conference.
“Don’t act like they’ve got a good team. Stop it.”
Barkley went on to say he didn’t think the Nets could make it out of the first round of the playoffs.
“I don’t see Brooklyn beating Washington. I don’t see them beating
Toronto, to be honest with you,” Barkley said of some of the team’s
potentially favorable first round matchups.
While his fellow analysts on “Inside the NBA” – Kenny Smith and
Shaquille O’Neal – were more optimistic about the Nets, neither one
thought Brooklyn could give much trouble to the two runaway favorites in
the East, Miami and Indiana.
“They’re not a contender,” Smith said. “They’re a playoff team now.
But without Lopez, they’re not a contender. He made them a contender.
They can win a series, but that’s not a contender.”
“Congratulations to Jason Kidd getting Coach of the Month,” O’Neal
said. “They’re playing great since the first of the year. They’re
starting to get on the same page, but we all question the age and if
they can continue it.”
Barkley’s stinging critique of the Nets didn’t stop there. When asked
about Williams, his injury-plagued season and his recent admission
following Saturday’s loss at Indiana that his confidence was sagging,
Barkley said the franchise point guard will never again be the same
player he was in Utah after the repeated ankle injuries he’s suffered.
“The first sign of Father Time is injuries,” Barkley said. “You ask
Kenny, you ask Shaq, you ask myself, your first 10 years in the league,
you never get hurt. You’re Superman. When guys start getting hurt, once
you hit a certain age you’re nicked all the time. They call them nicks.
“Deron Williams has been hurt a lot the last couple years. He’s never
going to get back to where he was in Utah. His best days are behind
him. Kenny always has a great quote. ‘There’s only so many jumps in
these knees,’ or [in this case] these ankles. And once your tires on
your car start getting hurt, you’re never going to be the same, and
that’s just how it is.”
While Smith agreed, his reason was slightly different, saying that
Williams never appreciated what he had in Utah, where he was coached by
Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan.
“Gary Payton had a unique quote at his Hall of Fame speech,” Smith
said. “He said if it wasn’t for his coaches, he wouldn’t have been a
Hall of Famer. I just think Deron Williams took for granted how great of
a coach Jerry Sloan was.
“He’s a Hall of Fame coach who has the ability to get the best out of
his players. John Stockton, Karl Malone, the list goes on … a lot of
times not knowing who is gonna coach and getting new coaches, I think he
took that for granted, and I don’t think he would take it for granted
now if Jerry Sloan was coaching him.”
The other Nets topic that emerged during the call was Kevin Garnett,
who has begun to play better in recent weeks after switching to center
following Lopez’s season-ending injury — a fractured fifth metatarsal in
his right foot.
But, like the rest of the discusson about the Nets, the panel was far from enthusiastic.
“He’s doing OK. But OK’s not enough to beat Indiana or Miami,” O’Neal
said of Garnett, who struggled
mightily through the first two months of
“Father Time, bro,” Barkley said. “Father Time. It gets us all. I’m
never going to say anything bad about Kevin Garnett. But Father Time,
In the end, though, Barkley summed up the feelings for everyone involved about the state of the Eastern Conference in general.
“Can we just get to the Eastern Conference Finals, bro?” he asked at
one point. “Put Indiana and Miami there and get everything else over