With the NBA season opening on Tuesday night, TNT’s “Inside the NBA” studio crew of Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Shaquille O’Neal and Ernie Johnson weighed in on various NBA topics on a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon.
On Carmelo Anthony’s new role
Shaq: “I think at this point in Carmelo’s career, if he wants to win he should look at teams like Golden State and San Antonio. The key ingredient there is moving the ball. Carmelo has been a guy the past two years where the ball comes in and it sticks. He’s trying to go one-on-one.
“He now has a team where you’ve got Paul George, you’ve got [Russell] Westbrook, you’ve got [Steven] Adams, where if things are done the right way these guys should make a lot of noise.
“At some point in your career, especially when you’re older, you have to say, do I still want to get mine? How do I want to be remembered, as a winner or a guy who just put up big numbers?”
Smith: “Everyone’s talking to me about how Carmelo has to change. I think Carmelo is going to help Paul George and Russell Westbrook. They will become better players.”
At that point O’Neal interrupted, saying, “The ball can’t stick, Kenny.”
Smith continued: “I’m not saying that Carmelo Anthony has not been a guy who has the ball and let it stick. I also can’t name five guys he’s played with that demand the ball the way those two guys [Westbrook and George] demand it. “
Barkley: “I’m not going to go crazy over the Oklahoma City situation, because I don’t think you can beat the Warriors . . . You can’t go small and beat the Warriors. If you put Westbrook out there, Paul George and Carmelo, they’re going to have Steph [Curry], Klay [Thompson] and Kevin Durant. I’m going with those Warrior guys.”
On Kristaps Porzingis and the Knicks
Barkley: “I love Porzingis. I think the Knicks have done some good things this summer. It’s going to be interesting because you look at Milwaukee, Philadelphia, the Knicks – six, seven and eight in the Eastern Conference is up for grabs.”
On what went wrong for Phil Jackson in New York
Shaq: “I think Phil went wrong in believing that the mindset of these players would believe in him and his system and the triangle. Guys have always tried to debate saying, ‘Of course it works with Shaq and Kobe [Bryant] and Michael [Jordan] and Scottie [Pippen].’
“But you have Carmelo, you have Porzingis and you’ve got some role players. I think if they would have bought into his system I think it would have been much different. But they never bought into his system.”
Smith: “To me where he went wrong is as a general manager he didn’t have the same leeway to go as a coach, because as a coach you’re in the trenches and in the moment and you can help make decisions and help people through it. I think as a general manager he was making the same comments, actions and movements as if he was there every day.
“I wanted him to coach. I just thought he should have come down and coached the team, because no one knows the system like he does. No one knows the structure of a team like he does. His best attribute to me is as a coach and he didn’t want to use that. To me that was the worst thing that could happen.”
Barkley: “I think Phil Jackson got kind of a bad rap, to be honest with you . . . They started losing, the press turned on Phil and once they start going against you and you’re losing, it’s just a matter of time.
“It just didn’t work out for those two guys [Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah]. That’s a playoff team [with them], but those two guys, they didn’t play well, plain and simple.”
On pregame anthem demonstrations in NBA, NFL
Barkley: “You [reporters] have really done a terrible job on this entire story, really ruined it and made it a more divisive issue. I hope these guys do like the NFL players, what they should have done two months ago, and meet with the owners and come up with solutions.
“The media, being the idiots that most of them are, they have made this thing about who’s kneeling and who’s not kneeling. We’ve lost what Colin Kaepernick started. Now they finally [Tuesday] are getting together with the owners and putting solid plans together.
“I hope the NBA players do that, work with the NBA, work with the teams, go back in their communities and put money and time and effort back in their communities instead of worrying about kneeling and who’s not standing. It’s not about the flag. Everybody loves the American flag. Nobody’s trying to disrespect soldiers.
“You guys in the media have made it about that. I hope these guys are smart enough to realize you guys love writing about this junk. It gives you something to talk about on the radio 24/7. Let’s quit talking about who’s kneeling and who’s not kneeling and let’s come up with some solutions.
“Before Donald Trump opened his big old mouth there were only about 15, 20 guys kneeling and then he called those guys ‘SOBs,’ which was inappropriate and 100 percent wrong. If it weren’t for peaceful protest we wouldn’t be sitting here, if somebody had told Dr. [Martin Luther] King you can’t protest, Medgar Evers, Muhammad Ali. There have always been protests.
“The fans need to take a step back. We ain’t just out here for y’all’s enjoyment to run up and down the court, dunk basketballs, rush for a thousand yards and things like that. Colin Kaepernick, I respect the guy. He had a serious point that we need to discuss. For people to get mad because these guys want to say something, that’s crazy.”
Smith: “I think the [NBA] players will engage in some type of bringing awareness. I call it not even protest, but bringing awareness of the communities they come from. I don’t think they’re going to stop that. I think they’re going to continue to do that in their way.
“I do agree with Charles that the most American thing is peaceful protest. It’s going to make you uncomfortable, because peaceful protest makes you think, and it makes you kind of look at yourself, where a violent protest you go, ‘These guys are animals, people just doing things they shouldn’t be doing.’ But protest brings awareness and awareness brings change.
“Was it uncomfortable, yeah? Should it be uncomfortable? Without question. He made a statement to get awareness and the awareness was peaceful, and as an African-American there’s no way that I could ever condemn any form of peaceful protest.
“Arguably Colin Kaepernick is the most influential movement, person, in the last 10 years. There’s no one who has made a statement the way he has that has gotten this type of attention and awareness to police brutality in the inner city and equal rights. I don’t think anyone has made a statement that can parallel to that . . . You’re going to see something in some way [in the NBA] because this issue hasn’t gone away.”
Shaq: “The problem arises when you do it at that moment [the anthem]. There are a large majority of people that think you are disrespecting the flag, so sometimes the message doesn’t get heard. I understand and respect the message. My message to these guys is once you start make sure you always do it.”