Monday, October 26th, 2009 at 3:50 pm  |  38 responses

Links: Lunch with Charles, Kenny and Ernie

They know drama…

by Lang Whitaker

Each fall, I know it’s time for the NBA season to start when I find myself filing into a Time Warner Center conference room for a catered lunch with Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith. TNT gets the guys into New York City for a day, and then they unleash the hounds (a bunch of writers) upon them for an on-the-record conversation about pretty much anything we can think to ask them.

Here are my notes from today’s lunch:

• Turner Sports president David Levy began by noting this was Turner’s 26th season televising the NBA. Anyone else remember when they used to have games on TBS? I do.

• Because Turner also runs NBA Digital, meaning NBA TV and NBA.com, Levy mentioned in passing that they’ll be launching League Pass mobile in two weeks, where you’ll be able to watch League Pass on your mobile device. Yee-uh.

• First topic of conversation was LeBron’s future in Cleveland. Chuck said he feels like LeBron should stay in Cleveland because not many guys have the chance to stay their entire careers in their hometown and be really successful. Kenny agreed, but pointed out LeBron might not be as much of a “sentimentalist.” Good word. Chuck said if LeBron leaves Cleveland, it could only be to come to New York. I asked if meant the Knicks or also the Nets. After a long pause, he said, “The Knicks.”

• Chuck and Kenny said they don’t agree with the direction of the teams who’ve been terrible (“turrible”) the last few years to set themselves up to have cap space in 2010. “The risk isn’t worth the reward,” Kenny noted, before recalling a few years ago when the Bulls had all that cap space and ended up with only Ron Mercer.

• Putting it bluntly, Chuck said, “I don’t like that strategy of, Let’s tear this thing down and suck for three years.”

• Charles echoed my prediction in the SLAM NBA preview issue that the Clippers could be a surprise team this season. (“Believe it or not!” he said.)

• Charles had one long answer where he used the phrase “First of all…” three different times.

• Kenny and Chuck agreed that the top four teams in the League are the Lakers, Spurs, Celtics and Magic. Someone asked if LeBron and Shaq could win it. “No,” Charles said, before adding, “Which Shaq? This one, or Shaq from 1996?”

• Chuck: ”With the exception of Mike Mathis, the NBA refs have always been good guys who worked hard.”

• Ernie said all the movement in the NBA this summer has been great. “I can’t remember the last off-season when so many people were coming up to me and asking about the NBA during the summer.”

• Charles said the Lakers are going to be great but it will still be compelling to watch them throughout the season. “Everything could be great for 2-3 months, and then Ron Artest could be Ron Artest.”

• I love that Kenny still somehow manages to pronounce Pau Gasol in a way that rhymes.

• Charles said Russell Westbrook “is a flat-out stud. He’s going to be one of the best point guards in the NBA for the next ten years.”

• Only Charles Barkley can begin a sentence like this: “You know, last year when LeBron James got mad at me after I said he needed to shut the hell up…”

• Kenny said that impending free agency in athletes leads to selfishness 80 percent of the time. Related but not related, both Kenny and Charles agreed that the players in Orlando were probably privately upset during the Finals when Jameer Nelson came back and Anthony Johnson got benched.

• It was 25 minutes before the Atlanta Hawks were mentioned, and it wasn’t by me. Charles said, “They’re going to be a good team.”

• I asked Charles about his recent comments where he said he’d like to become an NBA general manager. He said, “Some of these other guys suck, give me my chance to suck.” Chuck also singled out the Minnesota Timberwolves as having had a “stupid” draft.

• Kenny said he’s “gotten close” a few times to being offered a coach or GM position. Someone asked if he ever felt like it was harder for him to get a front office job because he was African-American. Kenny said never, and added, “One time, I was being interviewed by Joe Dumars. So if he had an issue with me being African-American, we’d have had a real problem.”

• Regarding adding Kevin McHale to the NBA TV staff, David Levy said that met with McHale and it “clicked.” Ernie also said he got to know McHale and that he’s a great story teller.

• Someone asked Chuck if he ever got tired of seeing his name brought up as a guy who never won a title, and he said only during the Playoffs each season in every sport, when they show lists of the great athletes who never won titles. Charles added that last season during the Finals, “Kenny, being the assh*le that he is, pointed [to the Lakers celebrating] and said, ‘Look down there. Adam Morrison has a ring and you don’t.’”

• Chuck said that his goal every week is for the people watching TNT at home to enjoy the studio show. “I want people to say, I had fun watching…especially if we have a sh*t game. Don’t we have the Clippers and 76ers on New Year’s Eve this year?” Someone confirmed that yes, the Clips and Sixers will be playing on TNT on New Year’s Eve. Someone else pointed out that Charles had said earlier that the Clippers were one of the teams he wanted to watch this season. “Not on New Year’s Eve!” said the Chuckster.

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  • http://myspace.com/brandnewis Bryan

    Good read lang. I remember those glory days of “tuesday-wednesday-thursday” nba games. It was a tbs sandwich and it was the time of my life.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Tzvi Twersky

    Sounds good. How much/what did Chuck eat at lunch?

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  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    One small sandwich and three cans of Diet Coke.

  • riggs

    “Kenny, being the assh*le that he is, pointed [to the Lakers celebrating] and said, ‘Look down there. Adam Morrison has a ring and you don’t.’” ——–reason #1 why i love these guys

  • http://lucianogalasso.tumblr.com Lu Galasso

    Great read. I’m not too fond of Kenny Smith not bothering to learn how to pronounce Pau Gasol’s name after 8 great years in the league, though. Leo Rautins is guilty of this, as well.

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Th3_R3al_Chris

    That’s a great line from Kenny to Chuck about Adam Morrison.

  • riggs

    i blame his mother for not just naming him paulo like every regular spaniard

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    I remember when TNT and TBS game sandwich. What the hell happened to that? We used to get three games a week a minimum, sometimes more, and now we only get two.

  • Delonte13

    When they showed the split screen of 3 games playing at once…Chuck said “It’s like a cyclops.” Then after the break Ernie told him off…”That would be a tri-clops.”

  • http://slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    Too bad David Levy doesn’t understand that it’s more important for Kevin McHale to “click” with the fans.

  • http://myspace.com/brandnew Bryan

    Allenp: they sold out to espn.

  • http://slamonline.com/ niQ

    Great read.

  • http://realcavsfans.com Anton

    No love for the Cavs. Spurs are still done, and I would be very surprised if Garnett makes it 6 months without surgery.

  • http://www.stonesthrow.com/madlib Michael NZ

    Ernie: “I can’t remember the last off-season when so many people were coming up to me and asking about the NBA during the summer.”
    True. I’m looking forward to this season more than any in the last decade… mainly because of the competition at the top of the league.
    And Westbrook IS the business.

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  • duncan21

    Nba action on TV tomorrow…Yessss!!!! (Marv Albert voice)

  • ab_40

    the cavs have the most holes on the teams out of the big 5 lebron is top notch and shaq is great but we all know that mo isn’t an all star and the other teams are role players of whom some(west) had a far to big a role in their season. last season they squized out every ounce of good basketball out of all the players and I don’t know if they can do that againt this year… If they do touché they’re gonna have problems with boston and orlando anyway

  • Atrain

    Chuck is the man

  • http://asfkl.com Jukai

    “Look down there. Adam Morrison has a ring and you don’t.”

  • http://www.another48minutes.com Gerard Himself

    First of all: thanks for posting this, Lang. First of all: there are so many great quotes, I literraly was laughing while I was reading it. First of all: if Chuck becomes a GM one day, I hope he’ll always give hoopheads like myself some quotes.
    Inside the NBA is my favorite show on TV, even though it’s never been on TV in my country, and I have to watch it on NBA.com (and I’m happy that this is possible).

  • Daniel

    Go Nuggets!

  • Daniel

    and the LWolves did have the stupidest draft in history.

  • Daniel

    LWOLVES did have the stupidest draft in history

  • http://www.twitter.com/NotebookNick thesubwayconnection

    “Adam Morrison has a ring and you don’t.” Bahahaaha! Luke Walton, too.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com DP

    niceeeee, Lang. play wit it.

  • http://www.teflinprague.com SAB

    first of all, thanks Lang.
    and first of all, see? the Cavs are not an elite team. they are ONLY a contender cos of LeBron’s brilliance. for all Kobe’s greatness, were they ever a contender when he didn’t have a good sidekick?
    i know i know… i just wish Lakers fans/LeBron haters wouldn’t be so quick to say “no rings = he’s a loser”. the only reason he has no rings is Danny Ferry, full-stop.

  • http://www.teflinprague.com SAB

    er, i mean, “period”. damn, i find speaking American difficult!

  • http://www.hoopsvibe.com/nba/overdribbling/index276.html chiqo

    i remember the two playoff games on tbs and two on tnt each night. this was back when the first round was five games and didn’t take three weeks to play out.

  • Bruno

    hey lang when are you gonna talk about why you think this’s goin’ to be kobe’s best season ever

  • Jacqueline Mitchell

    Ernie,Charles and Kenny are like those annoying family members who you love,but agree to disagree.

  • http://originalretrobrand.com Andy Hyman

    Any more on the Hawks? You going to be in ATL any time soon to cover them? I’m definitely feeling the NBA again. Miss the Omni seats and sneaks. Talk soon.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Tonight’s the night!!

  • NUPE

    Great read!

  • JB

    I’m a SLAM & NBA junkie, thanks in part to you, Lang, and I vividly recall thinking the other morning, “hey shouldn’t that TNT lunch thing have gone on by now”. I was in NYC this time last year and it sparked the thought. Thanks as always.

    Ernie still 100% cancer free?

  • L

    Those guys crack me up. The best b ball show ever. Period. L

  • vic21

    If you have lunch with Charles, chances are you’ll end up not eating at all

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