Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith pick Trail Blazers for 2019 NBA Finals


Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith pick Trail Blazers for 2019 NBA Finals

Stop me if you've heard this before: Charles Barkley doesn't believe in the Warriors.

The Basketball Hall of Famer said Thursday night during halftime of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s overtime win over the Portland Trail Blazers that he was not picking Golden State to win it all, let alone get out of the Western Conference. Sir Charles is picking Portland.

"Put it on the board," Barkley exclaimed on TNT. "The Portland Trail Blazers are going to The Finals! The N-B-A Finals!" 

Moments later, fellow TNT analyst Kenny Smith high-fived Barkley and said: "We are in agreement!"

The Blazers entered Thursday with a 39-25 record, good for fifth in the Western Conference. The Thunder owned the tiebreaker ahead of their clash that night, but Smith and Barkley clearly were confident in Portland's chances.

The Warriors split the season series with the Blazers, winning a game in Oakland and another in Portland. The recent playoff history is entirely one-sided, however, as the Golden State has lost only one game to Portland in the teams' last two previous series. Golden State swept the last one in 2017, en route to an NBA championship.

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Barkley and Smith could know whether the Blazers will take the Warriors' place in the Finals sooner rather than later. Assuming the playoff picture doesn't change between now and the playoffs and that both teams advance out of the first round, Golden State and Portland would square off in the second round. 

Looks like Barkley changed his stance on jump-shooting teams. 

Warriors' Kevon Looney gives up meat and gluten to combat neuropathy

Warriors' Kevon Looney gives up meat and gluten to combat neuropathy

In the summer of 2017, things clicked for Kevon Looney.

"I had to change my diet," the Warriors' big man revealed in March 2018. "Andre (Iguodala) was in my ear for two years about it. I finally listened to him and it paid off."

After registering career highs in nearly every statistical category last season, Looney was rewarded with a three-year contract worth $15 million.

Unfortunately, his 2019-20 campaign was derailed early in training camp because of a hamstring issue caused by a neuropathic condition he's been dealing with for a couple of years.

It turns out that another dietary change just might save Looney's career again.

As Ryan Gorcey of The Mercury News writes:

After he visited the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., last month, Looney ironed out a recovery plan. He went gluten-free and became a pescatarian (meat-free diets have been shown to help in many neuropathy cases). Kevin (Looney's father) served as Kevon’s personal chef, regularly cooking blackened catfish and baked salmon with vegetables and a side of potatoes.

Hopefully this makes the world of a difference for the 23-year-old.

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Since returning on Dec. 2, Looney is averaging just 3.4 points and 2.0 rebounds in 10.1 minutes. He doesn't yet look like the guy Warriors head coach Steve Kerr repeatedly called a "foundational piece" during last year's playoffs.

Perhaps things start to turn around for Looney on Friday night in Utah, as he is starting against the Jazz with Draymond Green and Eric Paschall both sidelined.

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Warriors' Steve Kerr explains what Ky Bowman can work on in Santa Cruz

Warriors' Steve Kerr explains what Ky Bowman can work on in Santa Cruz

In case you missed the news from Thursday ...

...  Ky Bowman is not in Utah to face the Jazz on Friday night because he will be making his G League debut in Santa Cruz.

The two-way guard only has 13 days left with Golden State, so the team needs to be strategic about maximizing his time in the NBA.

So what does coach Steve Kerr want to see from Bowman when he's playing for the Sea Dubs?

"What Ky can continue to work on is just his point guard mentality," Kerr told reporters after shootaround Friday. "In college he really was a scoring one. In the NBA, I think his position right now is backup point guard -- which he did a great job of with us, especially picking up the ball full court (and) being a pest defensively -- that's critical as a backup point.

"But offensively, he's got a really aggressive mindset -- which I like -- but there are still circumstances and situations where he needs to think more pass. And more strategic, rather than just score, score, score."

When D'Angelo Russell missed three games in early November, Bowman averaged 14.3 points and 5.3 assists, while shooting 53 percent from the field and nearly 42 percent from deep.

When Russell missed nine games from Nov. 17 to Dec. 2, Bowman averaged 12.6 points and 4.1 assists, while shooting 45.4 percent overall and over 42 percent from 3-point range.

But when Bowman has been the Warriors' backup point guard, his production understandably has dipped with decreased playing time in a different role.

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The Boston College product would be able to consistently put up huge scoring numbers in the G League. Nobody would question that.

But Kerr doesn't care if Bowman drops 50 points against the Sioux Falls Skyforce because he would prefer to see Bowman rack up 14 assists and six steals, and make sure the offense runs smoothly.

And in case you're curious:

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