Charles Barkley on Los Angeles Lakers Management: They are ‘Running and Hiding Like Cowards’

Loyal followers of TNT’s Inside the NBA show know studio analyst Charles Barkley has no filter for his feelings about hot topics, and there is no shortage of his opinions. When the topic turned to the daily soap opera that the struggling Los Angeles Lakers have become this season, the famed “Round Mound of Rebound” attacked the topic like an all-you-can-eat buffet at a Las Vegas casino on Thursday night. 

Barkley had plenty of opinions about who is really to blame for the Lakers, how head coach Frank Vogel point guard Russell Westbrook are taking far too much flack, and the shoddy construction of the team’s roster by LA management. Barkley, being Barkley, didn’t hold back in his pointed criticism of the organization.

Sir Charles defended Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel and guard Russell Westbrook

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook looks on during action against the Utah Jazz on Jan. 17. | Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The Lakers are a disappointing 22-23 and eighth in the Western Conference standings heading into tonight’s game in Orlando against the rebuilding Magic. It’s the beginning of a six-game, 11-night trip that could determine the fate of some of those involved with the franchise and the direction the Lakers head before the Feb. 10 NBA Trade Deadline. Dead ahead are marquee matchups against the Miami Heat, Brooklyn Nets, and Philadelphia 76ers on this potentially season-defining road trip.

“They’ve got a chance against Orlando,” Barkley cracked.

Barkley is irked that rumors have swirled for weeks about head coach Frank Vogel’s job could be in jeopardy if the Lakers continue to struggle. The Athletic reported recently that last week’s 37-point loss in Denver put Vogel on thin ice and that he might have gotten canned had the Lakers not defeated the Utah Jazz two nights later.

Barkley also feels that struggling point guard Russell Westbrook — a piece added to the team over the summer via a trade with the Washington Wizards — has gotten a lot of the blame for the Lakers’ struggles. Barkley said that GM Rob Pelinka — the executive who assembled one of the oldest rosters in the NBA around 37-year-old star LeBron James — should be getting the blame instead of Vogel and Westbrook.

“The Lakers are such wussies — and I only say the word wussies because I can’t say the word I want to say,” Barkley said. “The way they are trying to throw Russell Westbrook and Frank Vogel under the bus is really pissing me off.”

Interrupted by Inside the NBA host Ernie Johnson Jr., so that the network could bring on Phoenix reserve point guard Cameron Payne for an interview, Barkley added: “The Lakers still suck when we get back from this interview.”

As it turns out, Barkley still had plenty of ammunition in the barrel when the topic turned back to the Lakers. And, again, he tossed his verbal grenades toward Pelinka. 

“I’m not going to sit here and be like these clowns on other networks who have their heads up the Lakers booties,” Barkley playfully said. “They’re blaming Frank Vogel and Russell Westbrook. Now, listen, the people up top (in Lakers’ management) who put that trash together are running and hiding like cowards, saying, ‘Oh, it’s Frank, it’s Russ.’ You put all them old geezers out there.”

“Listen, the best guy other than LeBron in the last month has been who? Stanley Johnson!” Barkley said, answering his own question. “For y’all to bring in a guy who was on the street and he’s your second-best player, whoever is running that trash out there, is getting away with … it’s ridiculous, man.”

Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal agreed that GM Rob Pelinka is to blame for the woes

Fellow TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal had had his run-ins with Charles Barkley through the years. The two even had a playful feud throughout Thursday’s show after Barkley threw a liquid at O’Neal, and the Hall of Fame center later filled Barkley’s vehicle with plastic “popcorn,” used while packing items into boxes.

Regarding where the blame should fall for the Lakers, struggles, O’Neal — whose No. 34 hangs in the rafters at Crypto.com Arena for Lakers games — tore into Pelinka and his errors in building the roster around James.

“I agree with everything that Chuck said,” Shall said. “Rob Pelinka put this team together, and he should definitely take responsibility or definitely, you know, make some movers. When you have an older star (in James), you want to get younger, and you don’t want to add a bunch of old guys.”

Another former Laker, NBA TV analyst Channing Frye, also tore into the Lakers in recent days, saying: “It’s hard to be that bad.”

O’Neal gave the Lakers an out since superstar power forward Anthony Davis has been out since Dec. 17 with a sprained knee. He also downplayed the significance of Vogel benching Westbrook for the final 3:52 of Wednesday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers, saying there were plenty of times when he was taken out of games late because of his woeful free throw shooting. 

“They’re in the eighth spot, and they’re not out of it yet, but I don’t really think the (Vogel benching Westbrook) isn’t a big thing,” O’Neal added. “He’s the coach, and he has a responsibility to his team. Like he said, he wanted to put the guys in there that he thought could win, but it didn’t work, and they still lost anyway.”

As usual, TNT’s Charles Barkley had plenty more to say while ripping LA’s aging roster

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel reacts to an officials call during a recent game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Nov. 17, 2021. | Stacy Revere/Getty Images

TNT analyst Kenny Smith tried to argue that it was unfair to judge the Lakers when Anthony Davis has played just 27 games this season because of various injuries. 

Barkley wanted nothing to do with such excuses, pointing out that the Lakers might have been able to handle the extended loss of Davis better if Pelinka had constructed the roster differently. Barkley feels that Pelinka erred terribly in signing aging former stars Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, and Avery Bradley in the offseason. 

“So you think it’s all right for their second-best player right now to be Stanley Johnson?” Barkley asked Smith pointedly. 

In summarizing his thoughts, Barkley said that if anyone should take the fall for the Lakers’ struggles, it should be Pelinka and not Vogel and Westbrook. Of course, Sir Charles couldn’t end the segment without getting one classic dig at the Lakers’ aging roster.

“I’m not letting this go on Frank — I like Frank, people know that, and I like Russ,” Barkley said. “Russ is not playing great, 100%, but for everybody to be kissing up to these boys in LA. 

“I mean, who put these old-ass geezers together?” Barkley added. “They would have been a helluva team in 2010.”

All statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com.

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