Shortly after saying the Nets “aren’t good at all” during an interview on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” on Thursday, Barkley went off on Deron Williams on a TNT conference call with reporters.
“Deron Williams has been hurt a lot the last couple of years,” Barkley said. “He’s never going to get back to Utah. His best days are behind him.”
Williams, 29, has been hampered by ankle injuries all season and is averaging just 13.5 points and 6.9 assists per game, well below his career averages of 17.6 and 8.9.
After going 3-for-12 from the field Saturday night at Indiana, Williams told reporters, “[My confidence] is not my highest. It’s been tough, just being in and out of the lineups, missing two weeks here and there. I feel like I get my legs back, get my legs in shape, and then I go out again. Then I’ve got to just do it all over again. It’s been a struggle.”
“I was actually kind of dumbfounded when I heard a great player say, ‘I don’t have any confidence,’” fellow TNT broadcaster Shaquille O’Neal said. “Especially when you have the ball. ... Deron Williams has always been a guy that loves to have the ball. A very explosive player. He should now -- especially after saying he’s not very confident -- he should focus on getting everyone else involved.”
Williams was a three-time All-Star in Utah, thriving in coach Jerry Sloan’s flex offense. But the two exchanged words before Sloan abruptly retired and Williams was traded to Brooklyn in Feb. 2011. Williams has been frequently injured ever since, only occasionally displaying the elite talent he displayed on a daily basis with the Jazz.
“I think Deron Williams took for granted how great Jerry Sloan was,” TNT'er Kenny Smith said. “He’s a Hall of Fame coach who has the ability to get the best out of his players: John Stockton, Karl Malone, the list goes on. So a lot of times, not knowing who’s going to coach and getting new players, I think he took it for granted. I don’t think he takes it for granted now that Jerry Sloan was coaching him.”
The Nets (21-25), who are 11-4 in 2014, host the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday at the Barclays Center.
Barkley doesn’t think Brooklyn is a serious Eastern Conference contender with the likes of the Pacers and the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat in front of them.
“I don’t think they’re any good at all,” Barkley said. “Listen, you only got two teams in the East, you got the Heat and you got the Pacers. I actually think probably the Washington Wizards are the third-best team in the Eastern Conference.
“I could get on here and lie to you, but listen, it’s the Heat and the Pacers. Nobody else is any good ... or worth talking about to be honest with you.”