Charles Barkley long has been a skeptic when it comes to the Knicks, but even the TNT analyst expected good things after team president Phil Jackson’s personnel moves last offseason.
“It’s only because the (Derrick) Rose and (Joakim) Noah thing didn’t work out,” Barkley said Tuesday at an event in Manhattan promoting CBS/Turner’s coverage of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
“I think coming into the season we were all optimistic. I’m a big Melo (Carmelo Anthony) fan. I said well, Derrick Rose is going to be a free agent. He’s going to have a monster year. That’s what I thought going in. It just hasn’t worked.”
That is an understatement. Along the way the Knicks earned no points with current and former NBA stars when Jackson seemed to criticize and distance himself from Anthony, his biggest star.
“You know, the thing with Carmelo, they’ve been disrespectful,” Barkley said. “Carmelo should want to get out. You don’t want to be on a bad team your last three years in the NBA.”
Anthony, 32, has not put an end date on his career. That was just Barkley making a guess at how much time Melo might have left — and why he should feel a sense of urgency to find a championship-caliber team.
As always at such media gatherings, Barkley fielded questions on a wide variety of topics, and did not shy away from any of them.
Earlier this winter, Barkley criticized the Cavaliers’ LeBron James for publicly asking for personnel help on the court, and James gave a bluntly worded response that included a look back at some of Barkley’s notorious off-court moments.
Asked about his “beef” with James on Tuesday, Barkley said, “I did not have a beef with LeBron. LeBron had a beef with me.”
Does he stand by his original comments?
“Sure, of course I do,” Barkley said. “Man, LeBron is a great player and a great person, but he’s got two All-Stars (Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love), he’s got Tristan Thompson. He’s got J.R. Smith, (Iman) Shumpert and Kyle Korver. You can’t keep saying, ‘Hey, I need more help, I need more help.’
“It’s not a personal thing. It was just my opinion. He got mad, and personal, but it’s all good.”
Wasn’t Barkley just doing his job as TV commentator?
“Man, these guys don’t care about your job now,” he said. “You have to say everything positive about them, or they don’t like it. But I’ve never in my 16 years (covering) the NBA or college basketball said anything personal about a player, and I’m never going to. I’m going to do my job, though.”
Barkley has been criticized within the African-American community for some of his takes over the years, something that he said he does not bother him.
“My track record speaks for itself,” he said. “The one thing I’ve learned as a black man, any time I say something not 100 percent in agreement with the black community, there’s a faction that goes crazy, which I don’t care about . . . ’’