Charles Barkley was all in on the Philadelphia 76ers at the beginning of the year.
The former player and current NBA on TNT analyst even picked them to be the Eastern Conference team to reach the NBA Finals this season.
Now, though, he’s lost faith — and even compared them to a certain struggling NFL franchise, something that caught Shaquille O’Neal off guard.
“I picked the Sixers to get to the Finals,” Barkley said on Thursday night. “I think they are the softest, mentally weakest team that had a bunch of talent. They are the Cleveland Browns of the NBA. They got a lot of talent, and they talk the talk, and that’s it.”
Chuck has some thoughts about the Sixers. 👀 pic.twitter.com/VeVu4cxvw7— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 7, 2020
In Barkley’s defense, he’s kind of right.
The Browns entered the season with an impressive amount of talent at their disposal, including Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr. and others, yet finished just 6-10, missed the playoffs and fired both their head coach and general manager.
Though it’s not a direct comparison, the 76ers have had their own similar struggles.
Entering the year with a very clear goal to reach the Finals, Philadelphia sits with just a 31-21 record after Thursday’s 112-101 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. The 76ers have now lost four straight and are in the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
Center Al Horford said this week that “there’s some stuff going on” inside their locker room, too, and Joel Embiid — who is struggling after his return from a hand injury — said the team doesn’t have an offensive identity now, either.
"Like I say from time to time, you don't know what you're getting," Embiid said Wednesday, via ESPN. "I don't know if I'm getting into the game and if I'm getting the ball or not.
"Spacing is an issue. Sometimes we play fast, sometimes we play slow. But at the end of the day, when you think about it and as we try to get ready for the playoffs, the game slows down. It becomes a half-court game, and that's where we struggle the most.”
Now Philadelphia still has plenty of time to turn things around. It’s only the first week in February, after all, and they are on track to make the postseason.
For the time being, though, Barkley hasn’t seen the 76ers “walk the walk” — just like the Browns last fall.
“[The Browns] came out telling everybody how good they were going to be,” Barkley said. “Then they got punched in the mouth game one, and got punched for the rest of the season.
“The Philadelphia 76ers, my preseason pick to get to the NBA Finals, they’re just talk Ernie.”
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