You can add Charles Barkley to the growing list of NBA experts that have praised the job done by Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge in this rebuilding phase of the Celtics roster.
"The Celtics are building for the future," Barkley said in conference call on Thursday to promote TNT's coverage of next week's All-Star weekend of activities in New Orleans. "[Rajon Rondo] is trying to get comfortable and work on his endurance. Danny Ainge is doing a fantastic job. They’ve got some good players, a bunch of draft picks, so I’m not worried about Rondo and the Celtics this year.”
Boston (17-33) is seen by most as a team that will finish with one of the league's worst records and thus be in line for a spot near the top of what's expected to be a top-heavy NBA draft in June.
However, the Celtics are just five games behind Charlotte for the eighth and final playoff spot.
And while it may seem a bit far-fetched at the moment, Celtics players have talked candidly about their playoff chances.
"Anything is possible in the Eastern Conference," said Boston's Gerald Wallace. "We can get hot, win five or six games and that can turn things around in the Eastern Conference. We just have to keep getting better and keep putting wins together."
Barkley's take on the improved play of the Brooklyn Nets, who feature former Celtics Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, isn't nearly as flattering.
“Listen, the Nets stink, man,” Barkley said. “They lost their best player in Brook Lopez. Deron Williams has been inconsistent. They’re beating up on a bunch of ugly chicks in the Eastern Conference. Don’t act like they have a good team, stop it.”
And his assessment of Garnett, 37, echoed the sentiments of many who watched this future Hall of Famer struggle through a season in which he is registering career lows in just about every category of significance.
"Father time, bro," Barkley said. "Father time. It gets us all."
Former Celtic Shaquille O'Neal, a former teammate of Garnett in Boston who is a basketball analyst for TNT, added, "He’s [Garnett] on the downside of his career, we all know that he’s a little bit older. He’s doing OK but OK is not good enough to beat Indiana or Miami.”