Charles Barkley just finished a tet-a-tet with LeBron James as played through the national media, but he apparently isn’t done going in on younger players. This time, the emphasis is very much on younger.
In an appearance on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike, Barkley was asked about the 92-point game put up by Chino Hills sophomore LaMelo Ball on Tuesday night. Not only had Barkley heard about the game, he had already digested the highlights and was locked and loaded for some direct criticism of Ball’s game:
“You know, the kid was waiting at halfcourt most of the game,” Barkley told the ESPN Radio show. “Never went back on defense. So I had a problem with it, to be honest with you. Go look at the game. The kid waited at the other end of the court and just every time the other team shot the ball, they just threw to him at half-court or three-quarters of the court. I have a serious problem with that, to be honest with you.”
Let’s be honest: Barkley isn’t wrong here. For most of Ball’s school record-setting performance, he was in fact waiting at or near half court for an outlet pass or a break where he could capitalize on a numerical advantage for a better shot (or, potentially, assist).
Yet it’s also important to note that show co-host Mike Golic didn’t ask Barkley about Ball’s defense, or anything of the sort. Rather, the question that prompted that hot take was about whether Chino Hills’ opponent, Los Osos, should have done more to stop him from scoring. This could obviously include shutting him off in an isolation box-and-one style defensive package, having an individual player “spy” him and not engage in the game except to lock off Ball, or a handful of other defensive methods.
Instead of talking about what Los Osos could have done, Barkley went right for what Ball and Chino Hills actually did. Even if his criticism is fair, one has to wonder whether it’s really well placed when targeted at a high school sophomore … particularly one who just dedicated his best personal performance to a classmate who is hopefully awaiting a heart transplant.