There is no one in the NBA or associated with the league that is more opinionated than Charles Barkley. He says what he wants, when he wants and where he wants, whether he’s right or egregiously wrong, usually the latter, and he never shies away when speaking his mind.
After several years of being on the “anti”-Clipper bandwagon, Barkley’s battle cry on the Chris Paul-led team has changed tune as he now thinks they are the best team in the Western Conference.
“The two best teams in the Western Conference are the Los Angeles Clippers and the Oklahoma City Thunder … in that order.” (via Fansided)
Barkley’s opinion changing isn’t a problem. As results change we adjust our thoughts accordingly. And Chuck isn’t right, but he isn’t wrong. Usually we associate the best to the team that represented the conference in the NBA Finals last season. At least until that team falls off the cliff like the Los Angeles Lakers have done recently. And that team is the San Antonio Spurs, a group that hasn’t been healthy all season, but is finally getting things together. The Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that many assumed would have represented the West in the Finals had Russell Westbrook not gone down with injury, are currently atop the West with a record of 46-16. Most of their season has been played without Westbrook and now that he’s back in the fold it’s easy to say this team is the best in the West and possibly the entire league.
After those two, the Clippers have a place. Matchup wise the Clippers have played both the Spurs and Thunder pretty evenly. A combination of three-point shooting and athleticism overwhelms the Spurs and offense is what makes them a threat to the Thunder, but one feels the need to withhold judgement on this team until the playoffs where the game slows down and the half-court offense becomes a key component in playoff success. And alongside the Clippers, the Houston Rockets deserve a mention. Like the Clippers they haven’t proven anything in the playoffs, but with the addition of Dwight Howard they’ve emerged as a top team in the West. The argument can be made that no team in the West has been better than the James Harden-led Rockets since the year turned.
All-in-all, I guess it’s improvement for the Clippers if Barkley’s opinion has radically changed. They’re not ‘the softest team in the league’ anymore, maybe Doc Rivers has changed that for him. Maybe he thinks Griffin’s play of late can help the team come playoff time and that Paul isn’t the ‘toughest’ player on the team anymore. In a way, Barkley’s thoughts on the Clippers are those the general public also had, but with each game one and each dominant performance by Griffin, that thought is being altered.
In the end it’ll take playoff success for the Clippers to be taken serious, but this general change in opinion is a step in the right direction.