HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The way TNT’s Charles Barkley has talked about Dwyane Wade‘s game slipping lately, you have to wonder if he’s still in the Miami Heat star’s fave five.
LeBron James, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to be interested in biting his tongue where Barkley or any of Wade’s other critics are concerned. He aimed right at Barkley after the Heat’s win over the Atlanta Hawks Monday night, suggesting that Barkley quiet down after Wade’s back-to-back stellar efforts, which included what was arguably Wade’s best game of the season (he made 11 of 13 shots from the field and finished with 26 points, four rebounds and four assists in 34 ultra-efficient minutes).
“It means Charles Barkley needs to shut up,” James said. “I mean, the man [Wade] is shooting 80 percent from the floor the last couple of games. That’s like, crazy, right? That’s why he is who he is. Unbelievable.”
LeBron’s math is correct as Wade is right at 80 percent (20-for-25) over his last two games and 56.4 percent over his last five games (an rise over his season average of 50.6 percent). We’ll probably have to wait until Thursday night for Barkley’s rebuttal. But his comments that lit the flame didn’t seem terribly over the top at the time, minutes after the Heat had absorbed a nasty 20-point home beating at the hands of the New York Knicks (minus an injured Carmelo Anthony).
Barkley said out loud what a lot of other people have been thinking watching the man formerly known as “Flash” struggle to regain his form after offseason knee surgery.
“He’s starting to lose his athletic ability,” Barkley said. “He’s not the same guy. I got a look at him in person. He doesn’t explode anymore and he’s shooting a lot of fadeaway jumpers.”
Barkley’s initial verbal volley came a week earlier, the night the Heat had to survive the San Antonio Spurs’ second unit at home for a 105-100 win after Gregg Popovich gave his big guns a night off and a flight home (earning the Spurs a $250,000 fine), when he dropped this nugget on the Inside The NBA set:
“The toughest thing for Dwyane Wade is understanding that he’s starting to lose his talent and now he has to learn how to play below the basket,” said Barkley, who worked as a color analyst on site in Miami during the broadcast. “The toughest thing when you’re a great player or very athletic, when you can’t jump over a building anymore, you have to learn how to play.”
Barkley makes some good points. Wade isn’t the player he once was, but who would be after all the years he spent not as “Flash” but “Crash,” sacrificing life and limb to carry the Heat in good times and bad?
LeBron’s point is also well taken. He’s coming to the defense of his friend and teammate, a guy he’s toiled alongside the past two-plus seasons and tasted the agony of defeat as well as championship glory.
Wade, all class in his reaction and response to all of this drama, has chosen to simply keep grinding away and stay out of the back and forth with Barkley.
That doesn’t mean you have to …