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Barkley doesn't hold back while courtside

January 05, 2007|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Novice analysts can be hesitant to give their opinions. They are not sure when to speak, or for how long.

Charles Barkley was in such a position Thursday night at the Lakers-Sacramento Kings game at Arco Arena, where he was a courtside analyst for the first time in four years.

So how long did it take Barkley, switching from his usual role as a studio host to fill in for an ailing Steve Kerr, to toss out his first zinger?

Would you believe before he even set foot in the building?

Greeted by fans waiting outside in a light rain, Barkley, upon his arrival, told them, "I've said your team stinks because your team stinks. I love Sacramento. I love the fans, but your team stinks."

Call it his pregame warmup.

While waiting to go on the air, Barkley talked about how the Lakers' Kobe Bryant has been more conscious than ever this season about getting his teammates involved, thinking pass first instead of shoot.

"He got mad when I said that [on the air] in the playoffs last year," Barkley said. "All he's doing now is what I said. He can always get his 30, 35 points a night, but the other guys can't get theirs without his help. I think Kobe's changed because it was never his team before last year. Think about it. It was always Shaq [O'Neal's] team. But I think Kobe has grown up a lot and matured."

Bryant didn't appreciate Barkley's remarks in the playoffs last year and told him so in a text message to Barkley's cellphone.

Barkley said he and Bryant now have a good relationship. Bryant even sent video games to the TNT broadcast crew for the holidays. But he and Barkley still communicate only with text messages.

"We never actually talk," Barkley said.

Barkley talked plenty on Thursday's telecast.

To Kerr, who was home because of back spasms: "Guys never get hurt when they have to go to L.A. or New York. They only get hurt when they have to go to Sacramento. I never missed a game because of back spasms."

To 7-foot Andrew Bynum, who was being guarded by 6-7 Kenny Thomas: "Don't hesitate. You've got a midget guarding you."

On the prospects of public financing for a new Kings arena: "One of the travesties of sports is when you get poor people to build a rich people's arena."

Barkley said he was enjoying being a courtside analyst. "I don't have Ernie and Kenny ignoring me," he said, referring to fellow studio hosts Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith.

The TNT personnel had their own scorecard on Barkley's performance: Eight excellent comments, four wild guesses and three moronic statements.

steve.springer@latimes.com

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