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Charles Barkley Hammers LeBron James for What He's Done to the Young Players on the Lakers

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Thursday night, as the Los Angeles Lakers were down 65-54 to the Toronto Raptors in a game they would go on to lose 111-98 on national television, the conversation at halftime turned to the Lakers’ locker room dysfunction as they have fallen all the way down to 11th in the Western Conference, 7.5 games out of the playoffs with only 14 games left in the season.

Even if the Lakers win out, they would go 45-37. The eighth-place Los Angeles Clippers, at 39-30 and on pace for 46 wins, have a 2-1 regular season record against the Lakers and have the inside track on mathematically eliminating their Staples Center co-tenants with an April 5 game looming.

With the way the Lakers have been playing, that April meeting may not even matter.

Charles Barkley, on TNT’s NBA halftime show, ripped into LeBron James for his role in that burning dumpster fire of a franchise and, depending on your perspective, either ladled out a generous bowl of truth or simply stated the bleeding obvious.

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“You a Hall of Famer, these kids are 18, 19 years old,” Barkley said, directing his rant at James.

“Penny Hardaway ain’t said Shaq gotta go,” Barkley continued, referring to the noted animosity between Anfernee Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal in Orlando during the mid-1990s. “That would’ve fractured y’all relationship and things would’ve never been the same.”

“That’s what happened in L.A.”

Do you agree with Charles Barkley's comments about LeBron?

“LeBron’s guys, they said hey, we want Anthony Davis, take all this trash we got, and those kids took it personally,” placing blame with Rich Paul, Maverick Carter, and the rest of James’ cohorts working at the Klutch Sports Group agency, which also represents the New Orleans Pelicans’ disgruntled superstar.

“And people say they’ll get over it, no! You don’t get over that stuff.”

The Lakers’ locker room fell apart in February, the first symptom coming in Indiana when the Lakers, the game before the trade deadline when no deal was forthcoming with New Orleans and the team had to go play a basketball game together, looked like a bunch of guys who hated each other and got mauled by the Pacers 136-94.

In fact, in their last 16 games, the Lakers are 4-12. They still had a reasonable shot at the playoffs, especially if you’re in the camp that says “never bet against LeBron”, before the Davis disaster ruined their chemistry for good.

Compounding matters is the glaring national spotlight that follows James around wherever he goes. It’s the last thing a fractured team like the Lakers need.

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When his teammates are more seasoned and used to the scrutiny, as was the case with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and a veteran-laden bench in Miami during James’ four years there, everything held together just fine.

But when LeBron comes in like a whirlwind to a Lakers team that was starting to develop an identity around their young players, such as Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram, while undermining the authority of coach Luke Walton and the decision-makers in the front office?

Even if the Anthony Davis drama didn’t exist, there were already plenty of warning signs that the Lakers’ acquistion of James could be problematic.

But to go a step further and destroy the confidence of young players by, as Charles Barkley put it, calling them trash, and even though James never used the word himself, being willing to trade every one of his teammates is actions shouting while words whisper, is a special blend of clubhouse malignancy.

When LeBron James went to LA, there was plenty of speculation that he was only doing it to prepare for life after basketball and to be closer to his media projects even during the season.

The problem is that there’s still an NBA team that has basketball games to win, and LeBron is seemingly standing in the way of that goal.

Leave it to the outspoken Charles Barkley to call out the divisive distraction LeBron has become while everyone else is just standing around and watching.

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Boston born and raised, Fox has been writing about sports since 2011. He covered ESPN Friday Night Fights shows for The Boxing Tribune before shifting focus and launching Pace and Space, the home of "Smart NBA Talk for Smart NBA Fans", in 2015. He can often be found advocating for various NBA teams to pack up and move to his adopted hometown of Seattle.
Boston born and raised, Fox has been writing about sports since 2011. He covered ESPN Friday Night Fights shows for The Boxing Tribune before shifting focus and launching Pace and Space, the home of "Smart NBA Talk for Smart NBA Fans", in 2015. He can often be found advocating for various NBA teams to pack up and move to his adopted hometown of Seattle.
Birthplace
Boston, Massachusetts
Education
Bachelor of Science in Accounting from University of Nevada-Reno
Location
Seattle, Washington
Languages Spoken
English
Topics of Expertise
Sports




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