Charles Barkley Talks LeBron James, Draymond Green and More in B/R Exclusive

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2016

May 20, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Former NBA player and current TNT television personality Charles Barkley prior to game one of the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs between the Atlanta Hawks and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA may have given Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green a one-game suspension for hitting LeBron James in the groin area, but don't expect Hall of Famer Charles Barkley to criticize him.    

"When a guy steps over you, you have a moral obligation to punch him in the balls," Barkley said on SiriusXM Bleacher Report Radio's NBA Sunday Tip. "Because that's really disrespectful to step over a guy. You're supposed to pop him in his junk if he steps over you like that."

The league issued Green a retroactive flagrant-1 foul for striking James in the groin with a little under three minutes remaining in Golden State's 108-97 win in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday. James received a retroactive technical foul for his actions, which included stepping over Green and jawing in his direction. 

"That's a perfectly fine response," Barkley said. "You got to act like you didn't try to do it; I will admit that. When somebody steps over you, they're doing that intentionally to rub it in your face. They're deliberately trying to punk you in that situation."

James seemed to take more issue with Green's words than his actions. ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin reported Green called James a b---h during their altercation, which incensed the Cavaliers forward.

"[Green] said something that I don't agree with," James said after Game 4, per AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today. "I'm all cool with the competition; I'm all fine with that, but some of the words that came out of his mouth were a little bit overboard. Being a guy with pride, a guy with three kids and a family, things of that nature, just some things go overboard, and that's where he took it."

Barkley agreed.

"You can say something worse, but if you call someone [a b---h], you have to expect they're going to react," Barkley said. "If somebody called me that, I'm going to say something to them."

The TNT analyst, never one to shy away from his opinions, also expressed frustration about the near-constant narratives surrounding the series.

"It bothers me…instead of giving one of the other teams credit, we have to make up a story where we blame somebody," Barkley said. 

With the Cavaliers down 3-1, most of the focus has shifted to James and the 2-5 record he'll have in the Finals if Cleveland loses this series. Barkley said it was unfair to blame James, saying his teams lost because they went up against better competition. 

"I don't think they're up there with [Larry] Bird's Celtics, Magic [Johnson's] Lakers or Michael [Jordan's] Bulls, but they're comparable to some of the other champions—just a really good team," Barkley said of the Warriors.

Barkley pointed to the defense and bench depth as underrated reasons the Warriors win games. He called Shaun Livingston the NBA's best bench player. Still, Barkley, long a critic of the NBA's three-point proliferation, acknowledged Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are the reasons Golden State has gone this far.

"I've been in the NBA for 30 years, and I don't think I've ever seen two guys that can shoot the ball like [Curry and Thompson]," Barkley said. "It's crazy. I never thought, when a guy comes across half court, that we'd have to guard them. We've never had guys with that type of range. 

"There might be guys who can shoot just as well, but I don't think there have been guys that have [Curry and Thompson's] range. It's beautiful to watch."

Barkley also came to the defense of Kevin Love, who has become a lightning rod of criticism. The only game the Cavaliers won in the Finals came when Love sat out with a concussion, and the former All-Star came off the bench in Game 4. It was the first time Love had been a reserve since his second NBA season.

"Why does the world hate Kevin Love? It drives me freakin' nuts," Barkley said. "It's one of the most perplexing things I've seen in my 30 years in the NBA. Every time they win, they're the Big Three, and everything's great. Every time they lose, Kevin Love doesn't fit in.

"It really bothers me, this negative criticism of Love. Like this guy can't play," Barkley later continued. "This guy has been an All-Star in this league for a long period of time. He's been in the top five in rebounding for at least five or six years. And every time they lose, it's his fault. I have no idea why."

Barkley said Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue made a mistake starting veteran Richard Jefferson over Love. He said if he were Love, he would be "pissed." When presented with the possibility of Love leaving in the offseason, he wondered why the Cavaliers would blow up their team after two straight Finals appearances.

He did, however, like a theoretical offer of Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley and the No. 3 overall pick for Love. 

Perhaps the biggest reason Barkley doesn't want the Cavs to radically alter their roster: He thinks the Warriors will be forced to. Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli are both restricted free agents this summer, and Barkley said he believes the Warriors could lose both. Barnes' departure, he said, is inevitable. 

"They're not going to keep Barnes because they have to pay Curry next year," Barkley said. "They're not going to give [Barnes] $100 million then give [Curry] $250 million. They can't pay everybody; they gave [Green] $100 million basically last summer. That's the thing about success: You can't pay everybody."

Curry will be headed into the last year of his contract in 2016-17. Signed to one of the NBA's best value deals (four years, $44 million), Curry will command a maximum contract next summer well in excess of $25 million per season. The ultimate figure will depend on how high the NBA's salary cap goes, but between Curry, Thompson and Green, there won't be a lot of extra money lying around. 

Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.

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