Charles Barkley isn’t sold on the Los Angeles Lakers defending their championship.
After the Lakers struggled during a 99-90 first-round playoff loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday, Barkley argued that anyone who thought the Lakers would suddenly overpower opponents during the postseason after limping through the regular season — with stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis battling injuries — was off target.
“I’m watching all these idiots … on television, ‘Oh, the Lakers are the team to beat.’ I’m like, ‘I don’t think that’s true,'” Barkley said during the “NBA on TNT” broadcast Sunday night. “This notion that they can just show up and they’re going to win — nobody’s afraid of them.
“Anthony Davis and LeBron [James,] they haven’t played real basketball in months. … This is going to be an interesting series. This, to me, it’s a pick-em series. But the Lakers are not playing well.”
Fellow ‘TNT’ analyst Shaquille O’Neal, who has played for the Lakers and the Suns, agreed Phoenix isn’t intimidated. He was optimistic, however, that Los Angeles can rally in the series.
O’Neal said the Lakers’ success will depend on James and Davis.
“They still think they can turn it around. … The one-two punch for the Lakers, they’ve got to play better,” O’Neal said. “They’ve got to set the tone. Now sometimes when I watch AD, he’s floating. Me and Chuck, we hate to see him float. Dominate on the inside. You’re bigger, you’re quicker, shoot over the top. … Phoenix has poked the bear and let’s see how they respond.”
Barkley said the Lakers need more from Davis.
“Anthony Davis, he’s the key. LeBron’s going to do what LeBron does. But if Anthony Davis is not … the second-best player on the court for the Lakers, they’re not going to win,” Barkley said.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.