Charles Barkley is about to go on a rant about the Knicks, so let's pass him the mic.
"People say I don't like the Knicks, but I think that's really unfair," Barkley says in New York City on Monday afternoon. He is sitting on the third floor of an upscale Manhattan hotel to promote the CBS/Turner Sports coverage of the upcoming NCAA Tournament and taking questions from a collection of national media about the NBA and the college game. "Listen, I never have any preconceived notions. What I said about the Knicks is, No. 1, they are too old to stay healthy; No. 2, you can't keep shooting threes like that, and they don't rebound the ball. I said that in November. I said that in December. I said that in January and February. Now everything I said is coming true, and people are like, 'Well, I guess you were right.' Listen, I don't know anything about anything in the world but basketball. I never have a hidden agenda. I would love to see the Knicks do well. It would be great for the NBA. But they could not keep that pace up."
So how far can the Knicks go, Charles?
"They can't get past the second round," said Barkley. "I'm not sure they can get past the first round with or without [Amar'e Stoudemire]. It's going to depend on the matchup. I have said all along I think Indiana is the second-best team in the East. They have no chance if Carmelo [Anthony] is not healthy. Zero. They have a fighting chance to win a first round series if he is healthy, but I don't see them getting past the second round."
Soon the conversation moved onto the Lakers, another favorite topic of Barkley's this season.
"Listen, I don't think the Lakers are going to make the playoffs," Barkley said. "There are three legitimate teams in the West: Memphis, San Antonio and Oklahoma City, and the Lakers can't beat any of those three teams."
Then came a detour through Brooklyn.
"The Nets are becoming like the New York Jets," said Barkley. "You all talk about the Jets all the time here like you all talk about the Lakers. The Jets stink and the Lakers are mediocre at best."
Speaking of the Lakers, next came a question about where Lakers center Dwight Howard would end up next season.
"You know, that's a great question," Barkley said. "I don't think anyone knows that. Dwight Howard is one of the more interesting guys that I've watched over the last few years in the NBA. I have never seen a guy who is such a terrific player and a really good guy make so many mistakes. You wonder who is around him. I've never seen a guy with more 'What-the-hell-is-he-thinking-moments.' It's crazy."
Talk of Howard soon moved to the relationship between Howard and Kobe Bryant.
"As I said before, I wish he would tell Kobe to shut the hell up and get off [his] back," Barkley said. "He has become a punching bag. He's a great player and a great kid, but I have never seen a guy do more bad will to his image in the last couple of years."
"Twitter and social media have taken sports to a whole other level," Barkley said. "That's just the way it is. That was a terrific dunk, obviously. But listen, I played against Michael Jordan and guys like that, so nothing is going to be surprise me."
The subject turned to when college players should enter the NBA.
"You can't look yourself in the mirror after one year of college and say I'm ready for the NBA," Barkley said. "That's not an honest thing. I understand you want the money but you can't sit there and tell me, 'I'm ready for the NBA.'"
What about LeBron James?, asked a reporter.
"He's the only one," Barkley said. "Here is an argument I have used: The three greatest are probably LeBron, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett, and Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett were not ready for the NBA when they first came in. LeBron is the only one and he is a freak of nature. But as great as those guys (Bryant and Garnett) were, they still struggled early in their careers. But you are talking about some all-time players. These other f-----s can't play.
"Yes, there are exceptions," Barkley continued. "But now every [college] guy is like, 'I'm going in like Kobe.' You can tell watching them play they think they are going to the NBA after one year. They should not be thinking like that. If you are kicking ass every night, we will tell you should come to the NBA. Some guys go in the second round, and if you go in the second round, you should not leave college. If you are a lottery pick, you should leave college; I agree with that. But some guys are leaving college, they go in the second round, and end up in the (bleeping) D-League."
There was a suggestion about shortening the NBA season.
"That's a great point but these owners are greedy pigs," Barkley said. "If we started the season around Christmas and played, say, 70 games, we would stay from football and college football. I think if we played 70 games and started later we would benefit."
Talk turned to broadcasting, and Barkley was asked if he'd ever be interesting in covering something outside the NBA, such as the Olympics.
"I would love to do the Olympics," Barkley said. "The Olympics are cool. I tell people: If you haven't been to the Olympics, it's much different than it is on television. It's a really cool event. Going to the Olympics, holy sh--, it was cool. Dude, I'd have no problem having fun doing any sport. I wouldn't want to act like I was a guy who knew all about it but it might be fun having me do bobsled or something like that."
Then Barkley paused.
"No, wait, that's (bleeping) the Winter Olympics. No, bleep that. I want to go where it's (bleeping) warm. I don't want to go anywhere where it's cold."