Charles Barkley is never afraid to give his take on the NBA...or just about anything. Today, he spoke about the Lakers' big off-season, and specifically, LeBron James.
Barkley admits that he wanted LeBron to stay in Cleveland, but gets why he would make the jump to Los Angeles.
From a personal perspective, the Hall of Famer credits James for making the "business decision," but isn't high on the Lakers' upside. From Sports Illustrated:
“I was hoping [James] would stay in Cleveland,” Barkley told The Crossover in a telephone interview on Friday. “I look at [the move to L.A.] strictly as a business decision. He’s on the downside of his career. He wants to be a big Hollywood mogul. He’s going to be driving by the beach every day instead of going through the snow. … [The Lakers] are not even close to a top-tier team. They’re a 5 or 6 seed in a best-case scenario.”
Charles Barkley was way more critical about the players with whom the Lakers have surrounded LeBron James and the team's young stars.
Barkley thinks the focus should be on developing guys like Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Lonzo Ball. The team did punt on a big trade for Kawhi Leonard that may have cost at least one or two of those guys, if the San Antonio Spurs had been willing to go without taking back an established star like DeMar DeRozan.
By adding tempestuous veterans like Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, and Michael Beasley, Barkley thinks the team could be hurting the young stars' development.
“I don’t like what [the Lakers] are doing,” Barkley continued, during a promotional interview for his new deal with Panini America. “It’s going to take away from their young nucleus. They’ve got some good young players. You’re trying to set up Lonzo, Ingram, Kuzma. With all that other stuff going on, I don’t know if that’s a good environment for those kids.”
He also told SI that even just having James on the roster puts way more pressure on head coach Luke Walton. It is hard to deny that point; LeBron has a history of pushing out coaches.
“That’s an impossible scenario for Luke,” he said. “He’s got LeBron who is going to do things his way. He’s got those young kids who are probably in awe of LeBron. He’s got those older guys who are going to try to seek attention. I don’t think Lance and Rondo are going there to be the ninth or 10th guys on the bench and be quiet all year. They’re going to want touches.”
Barkley is certainly not alone in these concerns. Of course, they are also what makes the Lakers perhaps the most intriguing roster in the entire NBA. And, of course, most of these veterans are only on one year deals, so that could help mitigate some of the risk here. Still, it wouldn't shock anyone if year one of the LeBron Lakers is a circus.