Is Charles Barkley coming around on the Celtics?
The Hall of Fame NBA player-turned-broadcast personality was notoriously down on the Celtics last season. He said their season was “over” from the virtual start. He downplayed their early winning streak and dubiously doubted their chances before and during games (multiple times). He repeatedly snubbed Boston when listing the league’s top teams. He roasted Al Horford. He picked against them in the playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks — and the Philadelphia 76ers, even when they were up 3-1 in the series.
Barkley did eventually (and incorrectly) predict the Celtics would win in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. But then during the offseason he questioned, as he has continued to do, how all the talent on the team’s now-healthy roster could share the court.
“Even though they’re going to have more talent, that doesn’t mean it’s all going to work together,” Barkley said in July.
Yet, during an appearance Wednesday on ESPN’s “Pardon The Interruption,” the “Inside the NBA” analyst said the Celtics were the “only team” that could “realistically” defeat the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors this season.
“The Celtics are loaded,” he said. “Now, they got to make it work, because they have an overabundance of talent.”
Barkley said he thought the Houston Rockets, who were the best regular season team last year, had taken “a step back” after losing Luc Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza in free agency. And with the return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, along with Horford, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown, as well as a deep bench, Barkley asserted that the Celtics actually have “more talent” than the Warriors.
“Just on paper, the Celtics got more talent — they got more talent than the Golden State Warriors,” he said.
More talent than the team that has won three of the last four NBA Finals and includes Stephen Curry, a two-time regular season MVP and all-time great shooter; Kevin Durant, a regular season and two-time NBA Finals MVP and all-time scorer; Klay Thompson, one of the league’s most efficient shooters; Draymond Green, a Defensive Player of the Year award winner; and Andre Iguadala, a former Finals MVP — and just added Demarcus Cousins, one of the league’s best (albeit injured) centers?
“I don’t know about that,” “PTI” host Tony Kornheiser replied.
It’s unclear how much Barkley buys his own takes. Just a day earlier, he said during “Inside the NBA” that the only thing that could keep the Warriors from a three-peat were injuries, hurricanes, tornadoes, snowstorms,”some man-made Chernobyl,” or typhoons. Barkley ended his “PTI” appearance by predicting the Celtics and Warriors would meet in the Finals. So if Boston’s talent doesn’t ultimately match up, maybe they can get some help from a snowstorm.