Welcome back to The ‘Shop for another week of hoops talk. Jabari Davis and Lang Greene welcome Damien Barling (host of The Lo-Down radio show, 1140 KHTK) into the mix for what is certain to be an entertaining conversation.
Jabari: An honor to have you take a seat in the chair this week, Damien. I know you’re up there in Sacramento and covering the Kings, but let’s kick things off with a quick breakdown of which player/era/team(s) brought you to loving the NBA along the way?
Damien: Really happy to be a part of this. Thanks for having me. I was born in 1980. The Sacramento Kings got here in 1985, I really got into them in 88 or so. I loved the players we had here when I was young; Wayman Tisdale, Duane Causwell, on to Spud Webb and Mitch Richmond. Obviously, I was then introduced to Michael Jordan and I couldn’t turn back after that. I’ve seen Come Fly with Me and Playground more times then is probably healthy. From there I just gained an appreciation for basketball and players. I cover the Kings now but love basketball as a whole.
Lang: Good to have you, DB. Welcome. Here’s the thing about the Charles Barkley versus LeBron James saga. Barkley is a jokester. Part of being a great jokester is being able to be the butt of the joke once people stop laughing at your jokes and begin laughing at you in return. I love what LeBron said back to Chuck. Absolutely love it. But I also know that those words are going to bounce right off of Barkley and have minimal impact long term. It’s not like Sir Charles is going to deeply reflect on this. He’s made a living not really caring what people think of him. About the only time you see Charles get emotional about someone’s opinion of him is when his friendship with Michael Jordan is mentioned.
I think LeBron had to stand up for himself. I think he did a good job in changing the narrative into his respect for the game. Barkley can’t win in that regard. Barkley’s story is so confusing. He had to be an overachiever to do what he did at 6’5 – 6’6 versus the giants of the game – in a much more physical era. But there are so many stories of him not practicing hard and being out of shape that you can make a legitimate case of him underachieving. Weird.
Damien: I’m ok with both guys in this situation. I don’t believe athletes are supposed to sit back and not say anything when they’re destroyed in the media. I also don’t believe a guy like Charles Barkley shouldn’t say what’s on his mind. That’s what he gets paid a lot of money for. I’d be far more offended if I felt like he wasn’t being honest. The only problem I had was LeBron’s corny line, “There’s a new sheriff in town”. Come on man. Stop.
Lang: Yeah, LeBron’s new sheriff line was saucey. But he isn’t a good villain (see Miami 2010-11). But think about what we’re seeing here. The best player in the game being dissected at the HEIGHT of his powers. MJ, Bird, Magic, etc. never endured this type of criticism at the HEIGHT of their powers. In many ways, it’s blatantly disrespectful how we treat LeBron at times.
Jabari: Damien, first let me say I LOVE the fact that you mentioned all those old school players and RIP Wayman Tisdale, of course. I agree 1000 percent with each of you on the ‘Bron vs. Chuck discussion. Full disclosure: I may have affectionately been referred to as ‘Round Mound’ (of Rebound) by my family all throughout my childhood. I grew up in L.A. and had a rooting interest in the Lakers, but Chuck was ALWAYS one of my favorite players and (according to others) I played that style … you know, back when I actually did such things. Important for all of us to fully acknowledge this has been coming for a long time with these two. That discussion about LeBron “whining” and “not wanting to compete” was merely the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back.
‘Bron did go a bit far when he took it to the personal stuff (even though he could have named even more), but I also understand why he may have felt compelled to really drop the hammer when it particularly comes to Barkley. I also respect Barkley for taking it on the chin and not lashing back because I can’t say that I would have possessed quite as much discipline once ‘Bron came through with the verbal Gatling gun like that.
Keeping it in Cleveland, I’m sure you guys saw the news of their “mega workout” in an effort to appease James’ desire to bring in another playmaker from yesterday. Lance Stephenson is the most talented of the bunch, Mario Chalmers (familiarity) probably makes the most sense and Kirk Hinrich was tossed into the mix as well. If YOU are in that front office … which direction are each of you going?
Damien: The whole workout thing is laughable. Lance Stephenson? Mario Chalmers? Kirk Hinrich? Those are playmakers? This is what LeBron meant? Come on man. Not a chance. Yes, the Cavs need a guy to control the ball so LeBron can work the post when June comes around. But that’s not it. Steph, Klay and Dray added Kevin Durant. LeBron, Kyrie and K-Love add … Mario Chalmers? This is all about Golden State and the fear that Cleveland doesn’t have the hunger to win again. Why is LeBron averaging the most minutes in the league? Why do they give a crap about the regular season? It’s the annual LeBron-related panic. Last year there were subtweets to Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. Oh, and by the way, they fired their coach.
But who can the Cavs get? I have no idea. The Melo rumor is hot again but I don’t see it unless LeBron is gonna let Tristan get traded. Even that I’m not sure about.
If the above names are the names he has to choose from, it’s probably Chalmers. He’s gonna have to go back to getting screamed at by LeBron and him and Kevin Love will shoulder the hate if they lose.
Lang: If I had to pull the trigger, I would go with someone I have game footage of getting it done when it counts. Mario Chalmers. Provided he is fully healthy, of course. The Cavs need playmakers. So scratch the Kirk Hinrich noise. I spent the last 20 minutes trying to find a Hinrich assist highlight on YouTube in the past five seasons. No results found. No disrespect to Kirk, but he’s not what the Cavaliers need. Lance provides the most talent, but he also plays the same position as LeBron (at times) and if you shift him to SG … then you have a logjam with Shump, Korver and J.R. Smith (when he returns). Safe play here is Mario. Not scared of the big stage and won’t back down from the Warriors in June. Even though Lance has played good citizen in his last two stops … you never know when he will become unglued
Jabari: As, perhaps, the sole remaining “Lance guy” in this mix, part of me wants to believe he can capture lightning in a bottle and figure it out with a talented group like the one Cleveland has. He’s STILL only 26, but outside of a decent stretch last year with Memphis, he hasn’t played much meaningful basketball over the last three seasons. That said, I wouldn’t place a single dollar wager on that actually taking place, so I suppose I wouldn’t expect that to happen. I doubt these were the guys LeBron had in mind when he started speaking out, but I still think it will end up being Chalmers if his body is healthy enough.
Transitioning a bit, can we take a moment to talk about Damien’s Sacramento Kings? They were right there in the mix just a couple weeks ago, but have dropped seven of their last 10 and now find themselves closer to the basement in the Western Conference than the 8th seed. We’ll get to whether it will actually happen in just a second, but is it actually time to finally move Boogie? He’s 26 years old, in the prime of his career, and averaging 28.2. points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.4 blocks per game on the year. It still doesn’t look like they are any closer to getting over the hump, so is it time?
Damien: Believe it or not, they’re still very much in the mix. They’re three games back from the 8th seed. Funnier than that, they’d be in last place in the Eastern Conference. The West is a mess. It looks like Portland is most likely, and certainly most capable, of pulling away. It’ll be interesting to see how the Kings play back at home at the Golden One Center. They got the Phoenix Teenagers Friday, then the Warriors Saturday. They had a seven-game homestand that ended with Rudy Gay on the shelf for the year and a 1-6 record. They got on the road for eight and went 3-5 and the only two games they had no shot at were the first and the last. The Kings have no identity but they’ve started to move the ball better. They lack consistency but the loss of Rudy Gay has forced guys to be more aggressive offensively.
DeMarcus isn’t going anywhere for a long time. Any trade chatter, particularly that garbage started by some radio guy in Phoenix, is nonsense. He’s not being traded to Phoenix. He’s likely not being traded anywhere and if you asked me to bet on an extension or a trade in the next six months, I’d bet the extension.
Lang: Everyone that has followed me over the years knows how much I love DeMarcus Cousins as a player. Certified goodie monster. Check. Best center in the game today. Check. MVP type of talent? Yes, indeed. But I am also a realist in terms of how much we can expect out of a team with him as the top dog. I understand the franchise hasn’t exactly been world beaters in assembling talent in Sacramento, but at what point does a guy with all of the talents I just mentioned start to elevate the guys around him?
Quick – name the second leading scorer on those Toronto Raptors teams Chris Bosh led to the playoffs for consecutive years in 2007 and 2008? I’ll wait here for a second.
Like I thought. For those wondering, by the way, the answers are T.J. Ford and Anthony Parker. My point is, special talents lead their teams to the promised land. This is Cousins’ seventh NBA season and the Kings have never SNIFFED .500 since he entered the league. I love Cousins, as I said earlier … he is such a fantastic player. But the jury is out on whether he is a leader of men.
Jabari: Most trade rumors are bogus these days and given Sacramento’s history when it comes to Boogie, I tend to believe what Damien is saying. Would I be shocked to see them finally pull the trigger? Not necessarily … but it isn’t going to be for throwaway parts and trade machine filler as so many of the rumors would have you believe. Ok, so whether Cousins is ultimately moved or not, Damien, let me get a few players that you predict WILL or at least should be moved by the February 23rd deadline before we get out of here for the day.
Damien: Anytime Candace Parker’s brother can get worked into a conversation, you know you have a winner.
There are players in the league who can help DeMarcus and Sacramento succeed, but they’re not realistic. I always felt if you wanted Melo to succeed as a non-ball dominant guy, you had to put him with Chris Paul. The same is true for DeMarcus. He’s never had a number two and has certainly never had a 1A. Chris Paul is the perfect point guard for him. Yes, I know, it’s not happening but that’s the type of player he needs around him, a 1A with an Alpha personality.
Two guys who should be traded are Jimmy Butler and Carmelo Anthony. That’s difficult to pull off given the complexity of their contracts and the caliber players they are. Melo with the Clippers works but they have to somehow salvage their role players. Austin Rivers would have to be involved, which is weird, but that window is closing fast and Doc and his group aren’t ready to compete with a healthy Warriors roster or healthy Spurs roster (for that matter, they may not even be able to beat Houston).
The Bulls are a mess as I fully expected and predicted with a certain Basketball Insider on our radio show before the season started. The term blow it up is old and played but … blow it up. Wade finishes his career elsewhere, coach probably fired and Rondo off to annoy coaches and fan bases in a different city.
Teams I’d watch to acquire players – Boston, obviously. And Washington. They are hot right now. There’s a real chance, if LeBron continues to lead the league in minutes, someone can catch the Cavs.
One more team to watch, Philly. One of the most enjoyable teams to watch with assets everywhere. Embiid said playoffs and I may have been the only one who didn’t laugh. I love this team. They have draft picks and young players, so one strong veteran could catapult that team for the next 2-3 years while they build their young guys. East is the new West – it’s where the excitement is.
Jabari: I’m right there with you in terms of the Bulls. Folks were looking at me sideways when I said it would only be a matter of time before Butler and/or Wade wanted to move on, but I really wouldn’t be surprised if it played out exactly the way you broke it down.
I love that you went so hard for Philly because it allows me to do something few in this field tend to do … I was flat-out WRONG about their approach a few years back. While Noel and Okafor certainly are not stars at this stage, the fact that Joel Embiid is AND they have Ben Simmons waiting in the wings and other pieces starting to shine proves it was all worth it in the end.
We’ll see how things work themselves out around the league in terms of player movement, but at least we have a somewhat back loaded schedule (in terms of big matchups) down the stretch of the season to look forward to. The playoff push and ultimate postseason tournaments from each conference should be phenomenal once again.
Make sure to follow Basketball Insiders on Twitter at @BBallInsiders.