Charles Barkley, Kevin Durant and the NBA’s communications distribution

Every week during the NBA season 2020-21, we take a deeper dive into three of the league’s biggest stories in an attempt to determine if the trends are more factually based or fiction is advancing.

[Last week: The next 81-point scorer, skipping the COVID line and the upstart Cavaliers]

“Old heads” are responsible for communication breakdown with a new guard

Charles Barkley called Kevin Durant one “bus driver“To join the 73rd victory Golden State Warriors, and Shaquille O’Neal believes Donovan Mitchell is not ready to be the best player on a championship team. They seem to be the focal points of answer to a word from both stars to their predecessors.

None of the pages help to drive conversations about basketball.

The connection between O’Neal and Mitchell is clear. As is often the case, O’Neal had a hard time finding the best way to express his opinion and what came out was this awkward question to Mitchell about TNT’s “Inside the NBA”: “I said tonight that you are one of my favorite players, but you do not have what it takes to get to the next level. I said it deliberately. I wanted you to hear that. What do you have to say about it? ”

It was a terrible encapsulation of what was a valuable conversation earlier on the broadcast about what separates stars from superstars and Mitchell’s ability or lack of them to influence games beyond his points.

“A’ight,” Mitchell replied. When the 24-year-old Jazz star was further pressured by his 48-year-old interviewer, he added: “Shaq, I’ve heard it from my debut year. I’m just going to get better and do what I do. ”

“OK, good,” O’Neal said. “That’s what I wanted to hear you say. I love your game, brother. Continue like that.”

No big deal, right? Fair criticism. Terribly worded question. But we got to the heart of it. As he reminded us, O’Neal won four titles on six final tours with Hall of Fame guards as co-stars. For better or worse, this was the motivating tactic he drew from his experience. As he told Yahoo Sports“I was just trying to test his temperature. … You will either be soft about it and complain, or you will rise. “

Charles Barkley is not afraid to start talks with the current generation of NBA stars.  (Mitchell Leff / Getty Images for PGD Global)
Charles Barkley is not afraid to start talks with the current generation of NBA stars. (Mitchell Leff / Getty Images for PGD Global)

Except that this feels like a big deal, because the game’s two best players in the last decade – Durant and Lebron James – are upset about it. In response to an Instagram post asks: “Why are young players so sensitive when OG Legends gives them constructive criticism?” Durant said, “These old heads must retire,” and James added, “There is a difference between constructive criticism and soft hatred.”

James and Durant have said before, “What makes what he says credible? Because he’s on TV? … Screw Charles Barkley, “And,”I do not know why they’re still asking for this idiot.“The previous rant came in response to Barkley’s criticism of James’ expletively charged removal of his 2017 teammates.

Barkley’s comments, including pokes at Durant’s “thin skin” and Kyrie Irving’s confusing attitude towards the media, hardly came to a disrespect. Barkley is paid to give his opinion. Many people tend to disagree with these views, but he is always willing to explain how he came to them.

“Well, my philosophy has not changed in 20 years,” he told The Athletic’s Sam Amick. “I’m going to do my job. I’ll be fair. I must be fair and I must be honest. I criticized Kobe Bryant earlier in the day. I’ve criticized LeBron James, so I will not have a double standard about these guys today just because they are sensitive. I mean, I’ve always told the story of me and Kobe Bryant that was about it. And LeBron James got mad at me a few years ago, which was good. But I will do my job – simple and easy. ”

But the new guard has a different idea of ​​what Barkley’s job is. This may generalize a bit, but they seem to think that the job of former players is to promote the greatness of current players – period. Barkley reportedly got calls to rather criticize James Harden’s behavior on the way out of Houston. People took trouble with him asks Paul George a question on reported concerns in Clipper’s locker room.

Both James and Durant have even had problems with Barkley even taking the job. “I know he wanted to retire a long time ago, but he can not,” James said a few years ago. “He’s stuck on stage every week.”

Barkley earned $ 40 million in his playing career. James will earn more than that this year. It’s not Barkley’s fault. It’s because his generation took up the game’s profile that made it possible for James.

Have Barkley and O’Neal been models for good communication? Absolutely not. Long before social media, when discussions about mental health are avoided, much less embraced, before opponents met and planned their future together, they communicated. This is no excuse. It is a fact of life that embodies a major cultural phenomenon, and the “old heads” have a responsibility to develop.

But James and Durant do not represent what this development should be. They also have a responsibility to better communicate with their predecessors. Their vision of what “Inside the NBA” should be is not so entertaining. It’s not lost on me that James’ “The Shop” and Durant’s “The Boardroom” are versions of their self-reinforcing ideals. The absence of their understanding is no better than the failure to understand.

A discussion between them about the gap in how their generations communicate, the validity of criticism that comes from experience and how to best navigate their differences is a conversation I would look at. The rest of this nonsense? It does not serve the culture or the game beyond a viral clip that anyone can thump on.

Determination: Fiction

The Utah Jazz are championship challengers

The best answer to the old guard came from Mitchell, who handled O’Neal’s awkward interview with aplomb and responded by extending the Jazz payline to 10 and pushing their NBA record to 14-4.

The question is whether a list that does not look so different from the one that went into the playoffs last year as a sixth seed has turned into a bona fide challenger, or whether their early success is a product of that continuity and ultimately gets them no longer than their exits in the first round in the last two years.

The return of Bojan Bogdanovic, whose wrist injury cost the Jazz 20 points per game in the playoffs, would be a simple explanation, if he had not so far struggled to find the consistent efficiency that made him so valuable. Mitchell’s continued development as a deep point threat and playmaker has contributed to Utah’s improvement, as well as the re-establishment of Rudy Gobert as the game’s most dominant inner presence. High-efficiency points from Jordan Clarkson from the bench have also helped raise the offense.

But it is Mike Conley’s resurgence that makes Utah a serious challenger in the Western Conference. The 33-year-old’s Jazz era began last season with a whine, and even signs of resuscitation were hampered by NBA interruptions. He has been open about how difficult the adjustment was after 12 years at the Memphis Grizzlies, from playing Mitchell to starting Gobertand the complex nature of his struggle.

It’s behind him now. He has started this season as he always has, a future All-Star was not so deep in the guard position. Conley has an average of 16.6 points per game on 46/42/76 shots, a 60-point improvement over the year before in the actual shooting percentage, and he puts out more assists per 36 minutes than he has ever done in his career. The hoarding injury that slowed him down last season no longer hinders his defense. The result has been The NBA’s best individual plus-minus (229) by a large margin.

Jazz is 27.3 points per 100 possessions better with Conley on the floor than they are without him in non-junk time, according to Cleaning the glass. It will be impossible to maintain during the season. The odds are hot-shoot start for Joe Ingles and Royce O’Neale (45% on 9.5 combined 3-point attempts per game) will also fall back to earth. Improvement from Bogdanovic can help offset that.

Regardless, the addition of Derrick Favors and a rejuvenated Conley expands Utah’s potential playoff rotation to eight depths with serious talent. That they are connected so early in the season is even more important, especially after questions last season about the relationship between Mitchell and Gobert.

None of this can be enough to remove the Lakers as NBA champions or the Clippers as the biggest threat to their Los Angeles rivals, given Utah’s opposition to these teams’ star tandems, but a fully realized version of Jazz presents a united front across all five positions will not go down easily. A playoff loss for anyone but the two LA teams would be a serious disappointment, and an outrage of either is not out of the question.

Determination: Fact

De'Andre Hunter has shown tremendous progress in his second NBA season.  (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)
De’Andre Hunter has shown tremendous progress in his second NBA season. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

De’Andre Hunter will eventually be the Hawks’ best player

Few, if any, players have surprised me more this year than De’Andre Hunter, second year ahead of the University of Virginia. None of what was so impressive about him in college – a 6-foot-8 frame that suited the modern NBA and a skill to maximize it as a versatile goal scorer and defender across multiple positions – was evident in his rookie season. And I was afraid that Atlanta’s losing culture would poison all this promise.

But he has been a revelation during his second season. Injuries to, among others, the acquisition of free agent Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic have opened 33.4 minutes per night for Hunter, and his use of that opportunity has made it impossible for coach Lloyd Pierce to play him fewer when they return. He averaged 17.9 points on 52/38/88 shots, 5.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists with those minutes.

He’s been everything I thought he could be. He can score on all three levels and shoots 40 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s. He welcomes difficult defensive missions. In three games against the Brooklyn Nets – one win and two close losses – he has been the main defender against Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden for almost 24 minutes and kept them in combination 12-for-37 shooting. Hawk’s defense has worked on a top three level with him on the floor and a bottom third level without him.

Given his progress from his first year to his second, there is every reason to believe he can develop into a frontline scorer and defender. His 2.3 assists per game flash potential as a playmaker option. If he applies all his potential, there is every reason to believe that he can become Atlanta’s best player.

This may sound ridiculous to Trae Young believers, but Hunter has a chance to influence the game in many more ways. And consider this: Statistically, given his current levels of efficiency, if Hunter were to take the same number of shots as Young, he would average 30.5 points per game. It’s an exaggeration of this point, but do not take this as a slight hint to Atlanta’s starting point, because if Hunter becomes their best player, the Hawks will be a formidable force in the coming years.

Determination: Fact

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