Kristaps Porzingis returned to the Mavericks’ lineup this week, but that didn’t stop Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal from using the former Knick as an example of current NBA players not playing through injuries.
Before Porzingis scored 20 points in 25 minutes in Dallas’ win over Portland on Thursday night, the TNT studio crew – led by Shaq telling him to “man up” – criticized Porzingis for missing 10 games with a sore knee in his first season back on the court following 2018 ACL surgery.
Porzingis had returned to the Mavericks’ lineup two nights earlier, scoring 10 points on 4-for-17 shooting in a loss to the Clippers.
Barkley played fewer than 70 games in eight of his 16 NBA seasons, with his career ending in 1994 due to a ruptured tendon in his knee. O’Neal dealt with back and foot injuries for much of his 19-year career, with a dozen seasons of fewer than 70 games played.
Here’s a breakdown of the on-air conversation:
Barkley: “What do you think of this Dallas team, Shaq? They’re the No. 5 seed right now (in the Western Conference).”
Shaq: “I probably feel the same way you do, I’m not sold on them yet, especially without Porzingis, but I am sold on Luka (Doncic). He can do it. But I’d like to see Porzingis play more.”
Kenny Smith: “I’m sold. If Porzingis gets healthy and plays close, not even what he was with the Knicks, but close to that, then they move up to third. I think they’re just as good as Denver.”
Shaq: “What’s wrong with him now, Porzingis?”
Smith: “Injury, in and out. It’s his first year back (from knee surgery).”
Shaq: “Knee, ankle, toe?”
Barkley: “I think he’s got a sore knee.”
Shaq: “Sore knee?! Aw hell, no. What?!”
Barkley: “Shaq, this is a new generation. Hey listen, they don’t want to play two days in a row now. It would help more if Porzingis played.”
Shaq: “Hey Porzingis, send me your address, baby. I’ll send you a little care package. Man up.”
Barkley: “Icy Hot?”
Shaq: “Yeah, Icy Hot. Come on, sore knee?”
Smith: “He’s close. And this is not a stretch, think about this, not a stretch. Before he got hurt, there was The Unicorn and there was The Greek Freak (Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo). People were saying, these guys, we’ve never seen (anyone) play this way. He was getting to that (level), but The Greek Freak just took off out of the stratosphere. But if (Porzingis), just kind of a normal trajectory, with Luka …”
Barkley: “The best ability is availability.”
After they returned from a commercial break, they briefly continued the conversation about Porzingis.
Shaq: “Chuck, how do you get a sore knee shooting jumpers?”
Barkley: “I don’t know, these guys don’t play hurt anymore.”