While most of you who work traditional hours were nestled in bed last night, the TNT crew on Inside the NBA held a lively debate about the Thunder. Apparently, the preseason hype that surrounded this team is wearing off. That or the lofty expectations we heard and read about OKC coming into this season are now being replaced with more realistic projections.
Either way, two of the all-time greatest players, Charles Barkley and Chris Webber, on Thursday night stubbornly rejected the notion that the Thunder is one of the best four teams in the Western Conference. The matter stretched into a 4 1/2 minute debate during one segment after Kevin Durant responded to one of Barkley’s comments via Twitter.
If nothing else, the exchange between Barkley, Webber, Kenny Smith and host Ernie Johnson was entertaining. Here’s a link to the segment. And with the exception of a few impromptu jokes by the crew (such as Barkley facetiously asking if Oklahoma City had cable), here’s a transcription of the whole debate, with audio of the crew’s predictions after the jump.
CW: Let me just explain what I’m saying about them. Last year, they were the second best defensive team in the NBA without any shot blockers. This year, they got off to a slow start. I played for good, young teams before. We sipped the kool-aid. We come out, the veteran teams beat your butt like they did OKC early. I’m glad (Durant) is upset. You should be upset. But they haven’t played as well as I expected them to play earlier. They’re going to be good going down to the end. But we definitely believe in (Durant) and his teammates.
CB: First of all, (Durant) and Westbrook and Green, I love watching them. But defense and rebounding are they’re bugaboo. They’re not going to beat the big boys not playing any defense and not getting any rebounds…But they’re going to win some games because they’ve got three terrific players. But they’re big guys, they don’t take hard fouls. But they don’t play any defense and rebound. You can get through the regular season; but I told you, the three most important stats in basketball: No. 1, where you’re at defensively. You’ve got to rebound the ball and you can’t turn it over. And they play no defense and they don’t rebound the ball well.
KS: Well, I will say this in their defense. There are a lot of people who aren’t equipped to make the transition to be an elite team. They have the equipment. They have the assembly line to make the car to be a championship contending team. They have guys who can play defense. They have guys who can rebound. So yes. And, with all of this said, they’re one game from being a 3 seed. All of that said, they’re one game from being a 3 seed.
Barkley: But you know there’s a difference between a regular season team. Who’s their best big guy?
Webber: Who’s their veteran in the locker room?
Smith: They don’t need a veteran when they have a locker room because they have Kevin Durant.
Webber: Everybody, every man, every person needs a veteran.
Smith: Kevin Durant is a great enough player that his play is leadership.
Webber: He can’t lead 12 people by himself. Just the fact that Kevin Ollie isn’t there and he’s with Connecticut, like those are things that I watched. Like you said earlier, you need bad guys on the team, or guys that aren’t the nicest. The Vernon Maxwells, other guys. I still think you need the same thing in the locker room. The average age on that team is 23, 24. They made one playoff series and they played the Lakers. Great. That’s great. They played the Lakers and they played them well in one playoff series. That’s all we’re going off of.
Barkley: And you know, that jump between being a good team and surprising people to being an elite team, they’re not ready for that.
Smith: They are equipped.
Webber: Every team is equipped.
Barkley: Who’s their best big guy?
Smith: Green is their best big guy.
Barkley: He’s not a big guy. He’s not a big guy. I love Jeff Green, but he’s not a big guy.
Webber: Clippers are equipped to make the playoffs.
Smith: Clippers? You can’t compare the Clippers with Oklahoma City.
Webber: But the Clippers are equipped to make the playoffs. There’s enough good players for any team from the bottom to 6 to make the playoffs in either league.
Smith: But these guys aren’t going to be a sneak-in. They’re going for a 3-seed.
Barkley: They’re not going to be a 3-seed.
Webber: A what? They’re going for a what? It’s not even All-Star break yet.
Barkley: Come on, Kenny. Quit saying crazy stuff.
Johnson: Hey, they’re only a half game behind.
Smith: They’re a half-game out. How is that crazy?
Webber: And there’s only 50 games left.
Johnson: They’re trailing Utah in that division. Utah is losing tonight in Portland.
Barkley: Yeah, but they’re not going to beat Utah. They’re not better than Utah. They won’t beat Utah in no series.
Smith: Can we save this tape?
After a commercial, the crew came back with more banter. This time, the guys were trying to write down all the crazy things Barkley has been saying. And in that conversation, Barkley, Webber and Smith go back and forth some more about the Thunder. You can listen to that by clicking on the link below.