NEW YORK—Monday afternoon, the studio crew of TNT's "Inside the NBA" sat down over lunch at the Time Warner Center to discuss the upcoming season. Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal offered high praise of the Nets, with O'Neal notably saying Brooklyn could "give Miami a run" if everyone stays healthy. Joined by Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith, the quick-witted group took playful shots at each other while dishing insightful darts on a full slate of subjects.
Here are the highlights:
Shaq, on the Nets' potential:
"I think if Brooklyn stays healthy, Brooklyn can give them a run for their money. I like their starting five; it’s a very, very impressive starting five. You’ve got Jason Terry, who’s the self-proclaimed ‘Heat killer’ coming off the bench, they’ve got (Andrei) Kirilenko. They’ve got a great team. If they stay healthy, they’re gonna give Miami a run for their money.
Kenny and Chuck, on the Nets:
Kenny Smith: "Being a New Yorker, last year, I didn’t view the Nets as New York. But through what they’ve done for the community, they feel like they’re fighting to say, ‘No. We’re the team of New York. It’s not just Brooklyn – we’re the team of New York.’ And that to me is a big accomplishment. I live in LA now, so I watch how the Clippers struggle to get that name as LA because of what the Lakers have done."
Charles Barkley: "They going for it, man. Brooklyn’s going for it."
"If I’m a New Yorker, I’m going to watch more Brooklyn games."
Smith: "If I’m a New Yorker, I’m going to watch more Brooklyn games than I’m gonna watch Knicks games the way the teams are constructed right now. I would do that."Barkley: "You’ve got to give that dude credit. You’ve got to give Billy King some credit and Mr. Prokhorov. They are going for it."Smith: "You think about this Chuck: The Miami Heat are the best team, everyone says. Dwyane Wade’s gonna guard Joe Johnson. LeBron is gonna guard Paul Pierce. Deron Williams has a lot of open lanes where typically one of those guys would’ve been on Deron Williams. If you switch off, guys can’t guard Paul Pierce. The guys they have can’t guard him; they can’t guard Joe Johnson – he’s in a perfect role."Barkley: "Brook Lopez, he should have a field day."Smith: "And then you have Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett inside! The one thing Miami has trouble with is size and mobility. And the Nets have big guys who are mobile with size."
"You've got to give Billy King some credit, and also Mr. Prokhorov. They are going for it."
Barkley: "And then Blatche coming off the bench. It all comes down to health and Jason Kidd. They’ve got to make it mesh. But Brooklyn is going for it. We could have a Clippers-Brooklyn Finals! We could. We could. That’d be amazing."
Chuck and Kenny on Coach Kidd:
Charles Barkley: "I think it’s going to be a totally different learning experience for Jason, being the head coach. Is it a learning curve he can handle? I hope so, and it’s going to be interesting to watch this season.Kenny Smith: "I was a point guard, and I wasn’t as great as Jason Kidd. (Charles, matter of fact: 'I’m glad you know that.') Even as the point guard with your coach, he’s calling a play and I’m shaking him off sometimes. Or I’m actually going, ‘Get him out the game.’ I had the power to get guys in and out of the game. 19 years of that, it’s not much different. 5 years, 7 years, I’d be like, ‘This guy doesn’t have enough experience.’ 19 years? That guy’s experienced.
Chuck, elaborating on Coach Kidd:
"Jason was the greatest leader in the NBA the last 10-15 years. I think that’s Chris Paul now. But if I could pick a player who could walk off the court and coach, it’d be Jason."
Shaq, unfiltered on ...
… Brook Lopez's next step: "I was getting ready to say he needs to get meaner, but that’s not true – Tim Duncan’s not mean; Brad Daugherty’s not mean. He just needs to keep being consistent. He’s a (great) player. Chuck keeps bragging that Dwight is the best center – (forget) that. Brook.
"Brook is the best center in the league. I like him as 1, then Roy Hibbert, then Dwight."
"He’s the best center in the league, because he plays like a big man. He’s inside (and) he shoots the jumper. He plays like a real big man. He likes to post up. Other big men, they can only score if you put them in a pick-and-roll situation. I like him as 1, then Roy Hibbert, then Dwight."… the Nets' offense: "Let’s just say everything’s going right – if you just have one of those guys get hot, it’s gonna be a long night. But imagine if you have Paul (Pierce) hot and Joe (Johnson) hot – holy (smokes) it’s gonna be a long night. Especially in the playoffs. If you have Paul hot and Joe hot and Brook being the great big man that he is, it’s gonna be a long night."
Kenny, on the shifting landscape in New York ...
"There might be a lot of people on that 2 train, on the E and the F, used to going to 34th street. They might start going the other way now."