Charles Barkley is headed for the disabled list this summer, though fortunately for those who appreciate the Hall of Famer/TNT superstar’s irreverent, and at times outrageous, wit, he will undergo surgery to replace a hip, not his vocal cords.
What a relief, right?
Golden State Warriors fans can keep on grumbling. Barkley’s disclosure during a teleconference Tuesday reassured those who feared he would be forced to skip the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship July 17-19 at Edgewood Tahoe. The tournament’s annual star attraction plans to attend, accompanied by cane if necessary – and reminded NBA fans that having a bad hip does not impede his ability to provide plenty of lip.
To prove these weren’t the pain pills talking to reporters Tuesday, Barkley predicted the Cleveland Cavaliers would defeat the Warriors in the best-of-seven NBA Finals for pretty much the same reasons he stayed off the Golden State bandwagon throughout the season: his career-long aversion to jump-shooting teams.
“I have said the same thing for 20 years,” Barkley said. “I want my teams to go inside/out. You’ve got this dude down here in Houston (Rockets general manager Daryl Morey) talking analytics. But my notion is that I’m not big on jump-shooting teams because of two things: You want to get layups and get dunks, and (put opponents) in foul trouble. That’s just my philosophy. If they (the Warriors) prove me wrong, I’ll admit I was wrong.”
Barkley is known for his unfiltered verbal offerings. Admittedly, he might be the worst celebrity golfer he’s ever met. His chronic hip pain hasn’t helped. He limped badly while competing in last year’s tournament and, much to his surprise, was told by his surgeon the procedure will increase his range of motion and should improve his golf mechanics.
But back to the much-anticipated championship series, which begins at Oracle Arena on Thursday. Though he’s picking the Cavs to prevail in six games, Barkley anticipates a tightly contested series and offers valid points favoring both teams:
▪ LeBron, LeBron, LeBron: “That guy (LeBron James) is on a mission to bring Cleveland a championship. Man, just watching this guy play. … Can you beat LeBron James four times in a week? And I just don’t know if you can. Man, us old heads. We got mad at LeBron the first time he left Cleveland. Winning a championship in Cleveland is a lot more significant than winning in Miami. Those are fair-weather fans. Those people in Cleveland, they love their sports. To have a guy that great born in that city, you can’t write a better story if he can come back and lead them to a championship. It would be amazing.”
▪ The Cavaliers’ interior size: “Give their GM (David Griffin) some credit. They were just too small. Getting Timofey Mozgov changed their entire team. That trade made them a legitimate contender. And I like J.R. Smith and (Iman) Shumpert off the bench. But Kyrie Irving has to be very, very aggressive. It starts with Kyrie, but J.R. is gonna beat up on (Stephen) Curry. Steph moves so much, he might get in foul trouble, wear down. They (the Warriors) had a cakewalk through the Western Conference, which surprised a lot of people. I’d be really aggressive on Curry. I’d keep running Shump at him.”
▪ The Warriors’ depth: “That’s the one thing that caught me off guard. (Shaun) Livingston and (Andre) Iguodala have been fantastic. Totally surprised me. Steph has been fantastic, and they are better defensively than I thought they were. But I thought their bench has been amazing; that’s probably the thing that surprised me the most.”
▪ Experience matters: Asked specifically about Doug Christie’s confession that he “choked” during Game 7 of the epic Kings-Lakers Western Conference finals in 2002, Barkley replied, “That’s an interesting question. I never thought about that when I played. I was already a star by the time I got to Phoenix. I was 30 years old and coming off the Dream Team. But there is no doubt in my mind that guys on my team (for the 1993 Finals) froze up for Game 1. No doubt in my mind. So I just don’t know. I am not going to assume anything. You get so hyped up, you can’t relax and play. The Warriors are a very young team with the exception of (Andrew) Bogut. I expect them to go deep in the playoffs for a number of years. They are going to be nervous, but Steve (Kerr) has been there a lot. He probably brought out a bunch of tricks.”
▪ The final takeaway: “The two stars (Curry and James) are great guys. I always say, if I need a basket, I probably go with James Harden. If I need a basket and then a stop, I’m going with Klay Thompson. One of these teams is going to lose, but it’s been amazing for their fan bases. One’s gonna get the parade, but it’s going to be a great playoff for everyone. We’ve still got another 48 hours. It’s killing me.”
NBA Finals Game 1
Thursday: Cleveland at Golden State, 6 p.m., Ch. 10
Best-of-seven series will be televised on Ch. 10
- Thursday: at Golden State, 6p.m.
- Sunday: at Golden State, 5p.m.
- Tuesday, June 9:
- at Cleveland, 6p.m.
- Thursday, June 11:
- at Cleveland, 6p.m.
- Sunday, June 14:
- at Golden State, 5p.m.*
- Tuesday, June 16:
- at Cleveland, 6p.m.*
- Friday, June 19:
- at Golden State, 6p.m.*