NBA players can be hyper-sensitive to criticism from the media, running to their cell phones after games to see who has said what about them.
When that criticism comes from a former player, it can be even more problematic.
We were reminded of that recently, when LeBron James fired back at Charles Barkley after the Hall of Famer called James a whiner who plays with two other All-Stars.
James’ response was not shocking, especially when aimed at Barkley, who has never been accused of mincing his words.
But it’s also a reminder of the delicate world former players enter when they decide to wear a press pass.
Former Kings standout Doug Christie has been learning that recently as a co-host of KHTK’s late-afternoon show with Grant Napear and as a television analyst.
Christie said he walks a fine line.
“I don’t want to throw players under the bus because I know they’re not trying to do things incorrectly,” Christie said. “This is a game of mistakes and it happens, but the same time, I try to be as truthful as possible. Do I love the Kings? I do, but sometimes I think you need to be honest because of that love.”
Christie is an optimistic person, which shapes his comments on the Kings. But that can irk fans, who see 10 consecutive losing seasons and do not want to hear about progress from a team still under .500.
These are many of the same fans who cheered for Christie and his teammates nearly 20 years ago as the team surged up the standings in the Western Conference. They just do not want to hear about coaching changes and instability as reasons for the Kings’ struggles any longer.
“Some fans get on me and say, ‘Oh, those are excuses,’ ” Christie said. “I say. ‘No, they’re actual realities.’ ”
Being in television also means keeping the audience’s attention. Christie also tries to use his knowledge of the game.
“I would say more of my thing is trying to be honest but also trying to be entertaining because we haven’t had a whole lot of winning around here,” Christie said. “So it has to be fun at the same time, from my perspective.”
Christie said he’s never been approached by a player upset with his commentary, which is often considered a rite of passage among journalists. It’s said if someone isn’t mad, you’re doing something wrong.
Christie said if someone wants to talk, he’s open to it.
“Hey, we’re talking basketball,” Christie said. “I love to talk basketball. I try not to make it personal; it’s just an evaluation based on what I’m seeing.”
The This Can’t be Life Award
Well, this is life, for Knicks fans. A visiting player is being cheered as fans wonder if he will soon be a Knick.
The latest to receive that treatment was Kevin Love, rumored to be coveted for Carmelo Anthony. The same Love who some figured would be run out of Cleveland had the Cavaliers not won the NBA championship last June.
Knicks fans have longed for a champion since 1973 and, more recently, simply for a playoff team.
And they’re left cheering for the opposition, wishing for yet another star to save them.
The Keeping it Way Too Real Award
Twitter wars just aren’t for current players.
Former NBA forward and tough guy Charles Oakley used Twitter to go at Barkley, whom he has long had issues with:
“I love everything LeBron James said about the hater ... ”
Guess the two of them still aren’t buddies.