TNT studio analyst Charles Barkley discussed the Oklahoma City Thunder and the NBA during a conference call to promote the 25th American Century Championship, July 18-20 at Lake Tahoe. Barkley is listed at 500-1 odds to win the golf tournament, which includes a field of 80 sports and entertainment stars, including Annika Sorenstam, and will be televised by NBC and NBCSN.
Q: What does the Thunder have to do to get to the next level and did Kevin Durant do enough in the playoffs?
A: I think you guys are very fortunate to have Kevin Durant. He is only the second-best basketball player in the world. The one criticism I’ve had of KD, and I’ve had it for the last three or four years, he’s got to learn how to post up because they put little guys on him, whether it’s Tony Allen, who’s a great defender, Chris Paul has guarded him, in the last series they had Kawhi Leonard, (Manu) Ginobili and Danny Green. If he would add post up to his game, he could make these guys irrelevant. They would have to double him on the box. Getting the ball out on the floor as great a scorer as he is, they make him take difficult shots. He is a difficult shot maker.
But until Oklahoma gets a low-post scorer, they are not going to win. I told you that three years ago when you all played for the (NBA) Finals, you’re never going to beat Miami or a really good team until you get some easy baskets. As great as Kevin is, as great as Russell (Westbrook) is, the game always slows down. And their offense in the half-court is not very good. Russell and Kevin have to do a lot in the half-court. ... They are going to win a bunch of games. They have two of the 10-best players in the world. ... You got to have a guy who can get you an easy basket, and they don’t have that right now.
Should the Thunder amnesty Kendrick Perkins?
It’s not my decision, to be honest with you. I just can’t give away people’s money. But they got to find a way to get some low-post scoring and they got to improve their bench. Their bench is awful. Especially when they moved Reggie Jackson to the starting lineup, they had no scoring coming off the bench.
Tim Duncan stepped out of character in Oklahoma City when he said, “We have four more to win and we’ll do it this time.” What was your impression of that comment?
I thought it was really cool. He’s the greatest power forward ever, in my opinion. I think they know they gave away the championship last year. I think Tim Duncan wants to retire. If he had won the championship last year, he would have retired. I think he wants to win the championship this year, so he can retire. I think he’s just trying to motivate himself, to be honest with you.
Why are you picking the Heat to win in 7 games?
No. 1, I am concerned about Tony Parker. And LeBron (James), you got to beat that guy four times. I think that’s tough to do. I just think he is amazing to watch. I told somebody, I’ve been in the NBA for 30 years. We’ve never had a superstar that leads his team in scoring, rebounding, assists and he has to guard the best player on the other team. As great as Michael Jordan was — and I’m not comparing him to Michael Jordan — as great as Kobe (Bryant) was, think of all the NBA stars, we’ve never had one guy had to do so much for a team, and it’s beautiful to watch. I told somebody, two years ago, this guy guarded Derrick Rose and in the Finals guarded Kevin Durant. To be able to guard Derrick Rose, the year he was MVP, and be able to shut him down in the fourth quarter, and then in the Finals, every time OKC needed a basket, he’s such a physical freak of nature — he’s quick enough to guard Durant and strong enough to make it tough on him. It’s just fun to watch LeBron. But if Tony Parker is not healthy, it won’t be the Heat in 6 or 7, it will be a lot quicker. They have no chance without Tony Parker.