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#pounditFriday, May 20, 2022

Charles Barkley rips Kyrie Irving over part-time status

Charles Barkley holds a microphone

Charles Barkley is not a fan of Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving essentially turning NBA basketball into a side hustle.

On TNT’s “Inside the NBA” Thursday, Barkley ripped Irving, who just made his season debut for the Nets in a road win over Indiana on Wednesday.

“If you want to make a political point, which is silly and stupid, and not get vaccinated, that’s fine with me,” said Barkley. “But I don’t think it’s fair for me — OK, I’ll give an example. I love working with you guys. We work on Thursday night now. If I said to you guys, ‘Well, I’m only gonna work certain nights.’ Like, during the playoffs. That would be a better example. We’re on every night except Friday during the playoffs. If I said, ‘You know what, I’m not gonna work on the weekend,’ I don’t think that’s fair to you guys.

“To me, I have an issue with the entire thing,” Barkley went on. “Kyrie is a heck of a player. But to only play in road games, I don’t think it’s fair to the game … But more importantly, I don’t think it’s fair to the team.”

The Nets actually seemed to share Barkley’s viewpoint for much of the year. They did not accommodate Irving as a part-time player to begin the season. After all, doing so likely would have hurt their team chemistry and cohesion, especially with so many new players to integrate.

However, the Nets did a 180 after their roster was decimated by health and safety protocols. In December, they decided to allow Irving to play in road games (though he is still unable to play in home games as an unvaccinated player due to local New York City regulations). In his first game back, the star guard scored 22 points in Brooklyn’s eight-point win over the Pacers.

The counterpoint to Barkley’s argument, which was raised by co-host Kenny Smith, is that Irving is not balking on his commitments as an NBA player by choice. Thanks to the local health regulations, he can either play part-time or not play at all. But then again, all this stems from Irving’s decision to be unvaccinated, so you could argue that he is a part-time player by choice.

In any case though, it is clear that Barkley is not really a fan of Irving. Also, part-time players are largely unprecedented in NBA history (other than, for instance, the late Elgin Baylor playing only on weekends while he was on active military duty in the 1960s). Thus, these unusual waters that Irving is wading in are sure to elicit some strong opinions.

Photo: November 23, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Turner Sports sportscaster Charles Barkley before The Match: Tiger vs Phil golf match at Shadow Creek Golf Course. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

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