Charles Barkley became something of a Wizards rooter over the last two seasons with a particular affection for the backcourt pair of John Wall and the sweet shooting Bradley Beal. Like many during this season's second half slide, Barkley's love diminished a bit. The NBA Hall of Famer turned TV analyst picked the Toronto Raptors in their first round series.
“I don’t think they’re going to beat the Raptors,” Barkley said during a conference call for TNT before the playoffs tipped. “I thought what they did last year, I thought they came together and they were looking great for the future, but they regressed, to me, this year. I really thought that they had turned the corner.”
Following Washington's 4-0 sweep over Toronto capped off by Sunday's 125-96 blowout, it's fair to say Barkley is back leading the bandwagon.
After "Inside the NBA" host Ernie Johnson set him up - " Your Wizards hitting their stride." - Barkley provided the primary commentary during the late night recap.
"You know Ernie, this is a team that last year in the playoffs won in the first round and then they didn't play in the second round," Barkley said. (Editorial note - The Wizards actually played in the next round, just not as well as the Indiana Pacers, who won the series in six games).
"They're playing fantastic again this year in the first round," Sir Charles continued. "This is the team we expected all season. They've got a dynamite backcourt. They've got Nene and Gortat down low. Paul Pierce brings veteran experience. But the key is the two guards*. They make everything go."
Before the season there was some debate about whether the Wizards or Warriors had the league's best backcourt. Any such debate ended quickly as Golden State's "splash brothers" ruled throughout while Beal dealt with injuries. Maybe the Wizards aren't the gold standard, but how about silver medalist?
"I can say they're behind [Klay] Thompson and [Stephen] Curry as the second best backcourt in the NBA," Barkley stated. "When they get it going - the biggest reason they've been inconsistent is because Bradley Beal has been injured all year. If those two guards play well and they get anything from those big guys and spot stuff from here from Paul Pierce, it's going to be a tough matchup whomever they play in the second round."
Beal missed 19 games with various injuries and his scoring dipped by nearly two points per game to 15.3. The third-year guard led the Wizards with 23 points in Game 4.
(* By two guards of course he means Beal and Wall. Just clarifying since Barkley never says Wall by name and because Ramon Sessions also rocked the Raptors in the series clincher.)
Other Wizard-y related thoughts from Barkley:
On Beal, who he gushed over during the highlight package whether slashing to the basket or pulling up for a jumper: "If he can stay healthy he has it all."
On his potential sleeping accommodations later in the postseason: "If the Wizards make it to the Eastern Conference final*, I might sleep at the White House. I'm gonna call the President. I want to sleep in the Lincoln bedroom."
On the Wizards fan who does "the sprinkler" basically at some point during every game and was introduced to a national television audience Sunday night. "I want my grass to die if that's a sprinkler.")