CBS Sports NBA analysts Richard “Rip” Hamilton and Raja Bell said on “NBA Crossover” on Thursday (video above) that TNT’s Charles Barkley’s criticism of LeBron James was accurate. Barkley and the Cleveland Cavaliers star have been in a public feud over the past few days, after the Hall of Famer called James “whiny” and the three-time champion called Barkley a “hater.”
The reason Barkley called James whiny? He thought James challenging the Cavaliers front office to make a move to add a play-maker was inappropriate, considering both the talent on the team and the money the organization was spending. Both Hamilton and Bell, who worked for the Cavs front offie as director of player administration in 2014-15, agreed with Barkley.
“I think he was on point,” Hamilton said. “Sometimes Charles gets a little crazy with his wordplay and things like that, but this one, he kind of hit it right on the nail. And LeBron just can’t be — I think he’s just being a little sensitive right now, at this time, with them losing as many games as they have lost.”
“I was there with them in the infancy of this, in the first year LeBron came back, in the Cavs’ front office,” Bell said. “And as a front office, we did everything we could and we spent countless hours meeting as a staff trying to figure out what pieces we could get LeBron to give him the best chance of winning. So that’s their focus. It’s keeping that franchise viable, but in this window of time that they have, they’ve spared no expense, they’ve gone out and got whatever they could get, paid the money to whoever they wanted to have them pay, to give him a chance to win. So to throw them under the bus right now, I think I agree with you: Charles, he was on the money.”
You can’t talk about this James-Barkley brouhaha without talking about Cleveland’s management. Cavs general manager David Griffin is fully aware of the responsibility that comes with having James on the roster, and his front office has done an excellent job of adding pieces every year without much financial flexibility. This is why James faced some blowback about his pleas for another playmaker before Barkley even said a word.
James does, however, have some legitimate gripes. Remember when he was mad at the Miami Heat for using the amnesty provision on Mike Miller, thereby sacrificing depth on a team that needed as many healthy bodies as possible? Similar, seemingly minor things have happened in Cleveland. Last week, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that James is frustrated with his minutes load and the fact that he has to essentially be a backup point guard and a backup big man, partially because the Cavs decided not to sign Matthew Dellavedova to a four-year deal (worth around $4 million per season) and Timofey Mozgov to a three-year deal (worth around $9 million per season) two summers ago.
Both Dellavedova and Mozgov walked in free agency last summer on much richer deals, and Cleveland consequentially only has one rim protector (Tristan Thompson) and one proven point guard (Kyrie Irving). James would reportedly have liked some veterans at the back end of the roster, rather than young guys like Kay Felder, Jordan McRae and DeAndre Liggins. It should also be noted that the Cavs did sign vet Chris Andersen, but the Birdman tore his ACL in December and he has not been replaced.
Here’s my perspective on this whole thing: I’d totally agree with Hamilton and Bell if I thought this was entirely about James’ specific criticisms of the Cavs. James was exhausted and upset about losing for a while, and he eventually lashed out in a way that is probably counterproductive if the goal is for Cleveland to make a trade. Given the way the front office has transformed the roster since James came back in 2014, Barkley was right to defend the franchise and even say that James was being unfair.
I don’t think, however, Barkley gets it when he says that his criticisms are not personal. Barkley asked two rhetorical questions during his rant on TNT — “Does he want all of the good players? He don’t want to compete?” — and the implications were obvious. James felt attacked as a competitor because Barkley directly attacked his competitive spirit, and he probably put it in the same category as Barkley and other retired players’ tired takes about the modern game being soft and players being entitled and the rest of it. That kind of thing is personal to him, and I’m not sure that him finally defending himself makes him sensitive. If Barkley had actually kept it to basketball, then this wouldn’t have become a huge story.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Rip Hamilton: LeBron is being ‘sensitive’ about Charles Barkley’s comments