Legendary Dream Teamer Charles Barkley believes the league should put an asterisk on last year’s NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers. The Orlando bubble was a joke — a fake environment without fans — and so were the two last two teams standing.
Barkley was drinking tequila with the guys during an appearance on “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” when he got brutally honest. The NBA Hall of Famer referred to both the Heat and Lakers as “bubble gangsters” while telling Le Batard that he couldn’t see himself ever going to Miami again because the Heat are a mediocre basketball team. Just like the Lakers.
Barkley made the following comments in between sips of Cincoro Anejo:
Dan, they be like your Miami Heat. Since LeBron [James] left, I ain’t ever going to see you again. I’m never going to Miami again. I’m never going to Cleveland again. I’m never going to Houston again. My whole basketball existence is dictated by how good your basketball team is. So, Dan, as much as I love you, I may never see you again because y’all are mediocre.
The TNT analyst went on to discredit what happened last year in the Orlando bubble.
“That bubble basketball, it was a bunch of bubble gangsters. That don’t count,” Barkley said. “The bubble gangsters don’t count. I’m not counting the bubbles.”
However, Barkley did throw some lofty praise at Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra. He called the two-time champion a “terrific coach” who was solely responsible for sparking that magical 2020 run to the NBA Finals.
“Listen, in the bubble last year, Erik Spoelstra just out-coached those other dudes,” Barkley said. “Miami has zero chance against the Lakers. Zero. But Spoelstra’s a terrific coach and they had a game plan.”
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Pat Riley Responds to Orlando Bubble Criticism
Heat president Pat Riley hasn’t been immune to the criticism of the Orlando bubble. He understands that it wasn’t a normal season, far from it — and perhaps the Heat’s conditioning and discipline made them ideal candidates to make a championship run under those tightened protocols. Either way, Riley thinks they were the best team in the Eastern Conference.
“We were the best team, other than the Lakers, last year. We ended up in the Finals, whether it was the bubble or any place else,” Riley told reporters (via Joe Beguiristain of NBA.com). “And so, I take pride in the fact that people will say that the Heat and its culture were best suited for the disciplines needed in the bubble. And if that’s the case, then fine, then we had a little bit of an edge.”
And if people want to discredit what the Heat did down there, then so be it.
“What happened to us this year is what happened this year, and we’ll have to deal with those circumstances,” Riley said. “When people want to jump on [discrediting the bubble run] and say something negative about it, then that’s their problem, that’s their issue.”
Heat Get Great Odds at Landing Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard’s name has popped up as a possible trade piece for the Heat this offseason. The Portland Trail Blazers are experiencing some growing pains and the six-time All-Star could request a trade out of town. If he does, Miami is getting the third-best odds to land Lillard (+300). The New York Knicks (+250), Philadelphia 76ers (+275), Los Angeles Lakers (+350), Los Angeles Clippers (+400) round out the top five teams.
It’s important to note that Lillard hasn’t yet requested a trade, although ESPN reported that he was “absolutely devastated” following Portland’s first-round playoff exit.
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