Charles Barkley made a special stop into ‘First Take‘ on Monday and sat down with Stephen A. Smith. The Mound Round of Rebound and ESPN’s No. 1 talking head covered a myriad of hot topics, including the authenticity of the Dallas Mavericks as a true title contender.
The topic was fitting in the aftermath of Dallas blowing a 27-point lead to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night, dropping the new super tandem of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving to 1-3 when on the court together so far. The shocking collapse enhanced positive vibes about the Lakers’ championship chances, while a flood of opinions circulated about whether or not the Mavericks were the real deal.
“I don’t think that experiment is going to work,” Barkley said. “They’re going to win some games because they’re going to have some great offensive nights. They’re not going to be any good defensively, but they’re going to have some nights when they’re making threes and Kyrie and Luka are going to do their thing. But as far as being a serious contender …”
When the trade to send disgruntled Kyrie Irving to Dallas was reported, there were more than a few publications and social media groups that immediately elevated the Mavericks to playoff contenders. Vegas was definitely buying into the hype. The Mavs went from +1900 to +1400 to win the NBA championship upon Kyrie’s arrival, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
Barkley’s dose of reality has to hit hard for optimistic fans, Luka Doncic’s cult following and Kyrie Irving’s legion of woke supporters.
“They have no shot at winning a title. They’re just good offensively,” Barkley repeated.
Jason Kidd Isn’t Taking Blame: It’s A Superstars League
While optimism is still high for the new-look Mavs, coach Jason Kidd, a member of the only Mavs team in franchise history to win an NBA title, understands that meshing two ball-dominant dynamos together, getting them to trust each other, learn each other’s game, lead and sacrifice for a championship, is no easy task.
On paper, everything seems to be pointing upwards for the Mavericks, but as we’ve seen since Kyrie’s arrival, boasting two all-time great scorers makes you formidable, but it doesn’t make you a complete team.
After the collapse against the Lakers, Kidd was called out for his use of timeouts, refusal to play Christian Wood more on Anthony Davis instead of Dwight Powell and other perceived mishaps.
Kidd, who is from an older school in his approach to the game, took some accountability, but largely placed the mess on the shoulders of his players and high-priced superstars, who have to be able to keep their composure, deal with tough circumstances and grind the team to victory.
“I’m not the savior here. I’m not playing,” Kidd said. “I’m watching just like you guys, and as a team, we gotta mature, and we’ve got a lot of new bodies coming back, and we gotta grow up if we want to win a championship. There’s no young team that’s ever won a championship, mentally or physically.”
Kyrie is far from young and he’s already a champion, so his arrival should bring some veteran leadership. Luka’s just 23 but he’s been running the show in Dallas by himself for five years. We know Dallas has some young players, but the two main bus drivers are more than experienced in playoff battles and equipped to elevate the Mavs to another level.
Blaming Kidd is a copout. While his acumen plays a part in winning close games and when teams blow record leads the coach is certainly culpable in some way, it’s time for the two superstars in Dallas to produce. Wouldn’t it be a great look for the NBA to actually see two top 10 players get together, build a winning formula, elevate the surrounding cast to a level of basketball supremacy they’ve never experienced?
Kyrie Irving & Luka Doncic Have To Work It Out
That’s why Barkley calls the Luka and Kyrie pairing an “experiment.” Which superstar is going to alter his game and his mental approach enough to create consistent success?
Luka Doncic led the way for the Mavs with 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists, but he continues to argue with officials, which tends to throw him off of his game. Pesky defense by Jarred Vanderbilt also forced Luka into six turnovers.
Irving had his worst shooting game as a Maverick (8-22 shooting overall and 2-10 from three) which included a last-second airball that could’ve tied the game.
With the Lakers rising in the West and championship caliber teams such as the Denver Nuggets and Kevin Durant’s Phoenix Suns, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors and L.A. Clippers all waiting to catch a groove, the Mavs have to get it together and quickly because the playoffs are going to be an all-out unpredictable dogfight. Barkley says Denver, the Clippers and the Phoenix Suns are the top teams in the West.
“The Clippers are going to be a tough out for everybody,” Barkley added.
Maybe, but if the NBA has anything to do with it, the league most certainly wants Luka Doncic to duel it out in an NBA Finals sooner rather than later. So no conspiracy theories to be concerned about there.
It’s all about how these two talented stars choose to go about their business. Will talent prevail, or will egos once again be the downfall for a potentially great team? The Brooklyn Nets know all about superstar dysfunction and how it can suck the life out of something potentially beautiful.
For once, we would be tickled to see these players actually live up to the hype and deliver after they get what they want. In this case, Luka needed another superstar to relieve the burden and Kyrie needed a fresh start. It’s a rare occurrence that these increasingly familiar team-jumping scenarios work out. It’s been a half a century since a very capable Earl “The Pearl” Monroe toned down his game and let Clyde Frazier take the scoring lead en route to a New York Knicks championship in 1972-73. Egos rule the NBA now. And Charles Barkley isn’t buying what the Mavs are selling for a second.