In a TNT conference call Tuesday to preview the NBA playoffs, Charles Barkley cited the Oklahoma City Thunder’s porous defense as one reason why the Thunder will lose to the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
TNT will broadcast about 45 playoff games in 40 days.
“They have a bright future, but they are not going to win right now,” Barkley said of the Thunder. “They are a little young, their defense has been getting worse the last two or three weeks. I always say my biggest regret in my career is that I wasn’t a great defender. There are two stats I always look at, defense and rebounding. That’s the only way you’re going to win a championship, really good defense and rebounding the ball. Oklahoma City, the last 10 games, their points have really been going up. A couple of games they’ve given up about 120 points and if you’re giving up 115 or 120 points consistently, you’re not going to beat one of the elite teams in the playoffs.”
Other comments from Barkley: (Coach) Scott Brooks has done a terrific job, (Kevin) Durant is one of the 10 best players in the world, I love the point guard (Russell) Westbrook, I love Jeff Green, (Serge) Ibaka is terrific. They have a really bright future. I had Scott Brooks as ‘Coach of the Year’ all year, then I leaned toward (Phoenix’s) Alvin Gentry and I finally settled on (Milwaukee’s) Scott Skiles. Oklahoma City has done a great job and they’ve done it the right way. They’ve done it through the draft. They got three guys who are going to be All-Stars.”
Other comments from the conference call:
Analyst Kevin McHale on the positive experience the playoffs will be for the Thunder: “You’ve got to get a few scabs on your knees a few times in this league. If you really want to run fast you’ve got to fall down a few times. For Oklahoma City, they are going to maybe fall down and get a few scabs, but they are really going to remember that. They’ll remember that loss and these playoffs will be a great time for them. Kevin Durant is really going to find out what the playoffs are all about and they need to because they are going to be in the playoffs for a long time.”
Analyst Doug Collins on the many questions marks in the Western Conference, including the Lakers: “In the West, yes, the Lakers appear to be the team to beat, but they’ve got a lot of question marks right now. You’ve got to be concerned about Kobe Bryant right now with his finger injury and, more importantly, it sounds to me like he’s having some problems with that leg getting lift on his jump shot. He’s not shot the ball well in the last three games. Andrew Bynum coming back, is this going to be similar to last year with him not being a factor in the playoffs? If he doesn’t play and play well than Lamar Odom has got to start and it hurts the Lakers’ bench. That’s been very up and down all year, they’ve not been able to get any great production. And you’ve got to be concerned about when they play against fast point guards if Derek Fisher can contain them with all the pick-and-rolls you’re going to see because the Lakers don’t defend the screen-roll very well. Everyone had Denver ticketed to being the Lakers’ biggest challenge in the West because of the way they’ve played, but you’ve had Kenyon Martin hurt, the loss of George Karl and what he has meant to that team. There are so many question marks going in.”
Barkley on Bryant needing to adjust his game when he is injured: “(Kobe Bryant) is really banged up. (The Lakers) have really been going through the motions the whole season. Kobe uses so much energy every single night. He’s going to have to tweak his game at some point and say, ‘I’m making this move and I’m not trying to score. I’m trying to pass it to Andrew (Bynum), I’m trying to pass it to Pau (Gasol).’ You have to learn as you get older that you can’t waste all your energy. Scoring 25 or 30 points a night, it takes a toll on you. He’s still using so much energy every night and as you get older, you don’t get healthy, you just get older. (His finger injury) doesn’t hurt his FGA’s (field goal attempts). He hasn’t stopped shooting. If his finger is hurt and you’re not making shots, make a move with (different) intent. If his finger is hurt, he can become more of a set-up man because every defense is geared towards him offensively. He’s going to have to change his game a little.”