This is an excellent word that is not often used in modern encyclopedias: “prude.” The preferred definition comes from Merriam-Webster: “a person who is overly or priggishly aware of decency or decorum.”
And the perception here is that if you do not enjoy Charles Barkley in his best forms, as a TV panelist and in video replays of his golf swing, it officially makes you a prude.
Three decades ago, the media covering the first collection of “The Dream Team” was allowed to pay for rooms at the same hotel where the players lived in La Jolla, California.
Silas McKinnie, a former Gophers assistant, worked as a scout in the NBA and was at the hotel. I bought him a toddy late in the afternoon at the bar, and then Barkley – Silas’ friend from Alabama – showed up. They spoke; I listened and laughed.
As Charles was on his way to a poker game with other Dream Teamers, a civilian man approached him and said something quiet. Barkley turned and walked over to a young man who had spent his life in a wheelchair.
This was not a “hello, nice to meet you” from Charles. High-stakes poker could wait. Barkley sat down and talked to the excited, challenged fan for at least half an hour.
Which is to say, “Put me in the big group that loves Barkley,” before adding, “Charles is wrong about the Timberwolves getting messed up with their use of 7-foot center Karl-Anthony Towns.”
It is Barkley’s view that when an NBA team has a talented, very big man, he needs to be down to force himself physically on a defense. Charles was overheard on TNT with this rant a few times during the regular season.
Then came the open microphone on KAT bashing after his near-absence in the Timberwolves’ 109-104 play-in victory over the LA Clippers Tuesday night.
Six errors, 24 minutes, 3-to-11 from the field (0-to-7 in the first half) and 11 points.
One TNT theory was that starting the attack with KAT at midfield made it easier for the Clippers to have Nicolas Batum either in front or to the side of Towns, with a big man strolling behind him.
On Thursday, Wolves coach Chris Finch was asked about Barkley’s theory that Towns should be a post-up player, which means down low.
“KAT is a post-up player,” Finch said. “We post him a lot. KAT can score at all levels. He’s not a one-trick pony. We’ll use all his best assets.”
Towns have a few tricks that may be unsurpassed among the centers of the NBA: shooting from distance and storming past defenders on drives when they compete too closely.
A case can be made that he gets in trouble when he is low and struggling through the crowd. Playing “soft” was not his problem against the Clippers. Screwing up for missed shots contributed to the goose egg in the first half and also helped put him in bad danger.
Enjoy Barkley and the rest of KAT’s overly soft crowd the fifth foul as Towns tried to penetrate the defense with his right shoulder in the third quarter?
This is Towns’ seventh season with the Wolves. There were three years where I was among the civilians who expected more – especially when he went from ironman to often missed in 2019-20 and again last season.
Jimmy Butler’s anti-CAT screed was over the top, but when the losers resumed after Butler’s departure, you wondered about Towns’ involvement in the case here in Minnesota.
We took bets as the Wolves had a losing streak of six games early in this season’s schedule that at the All-Star break there would be reports from unnamed sources that Towns wanted a trade.
And then this outfit became high-scoring and quite competently defensively, going from 23-49 (.319) in 2020-21 to 46-36 (.561).
The statistical line may be the same, but from start to finish, KAT has come back after the same commitment in his first three seasons, adding experience and playing the best in his NBA life.
I do not find the Clippers trying to be evidence that cities lack gut strength in big moments, as others do. I see it more as Patrick Mahomes’ second half vs. Bengals… just a bad ball game when one does not expect it from a team leader.
And there’s this, too: Where would the wolves be without him, and what would be the NBA’s version of Wins Above Replacement?
Because as with Kevin Garnett before him, there is no deal to be made that would replace KAT’s talent at all levels.