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Charles Barkley thought he had Magic GM job, discusses Suns GM opening

(AP photos)

Imagine this: Charles Barkley, NBA general manager.

Asked by Bickley & Marotta if he’d ever want to lead an NBA team’s front office, the TNT studio analyst suggested the question didn’t lie outside reality.

“Number one, I thought I was going to be one last year, and I was really pissed I didn’t get the job,” Barkley said Tuesday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “I would listen to certain people but I’m not sure at this stage in my life — but I did, I thought I had the job last year and it pissed me off. They hired another one of those analytical idiots instead of just getting the best players. That’s OK.”

Which job?

“Orlando.”

On May 23 of 2017, the Magic hired long-time NBA executive John Hammond from the Milwaukee Bucks instead of Barkley.

Anyway, the question was posed to Barkley because the former Phoenix Suns star knows how the league works. And with Phoenix having just fired its general manager Ryan McDonough a day prior, it was worth hearing out the often-critical Barkley when it came to his former team.

Maybe surprisingly, he wasn’t critical of McDonough’s tenure that included a 155-255 record since he took the job in 2013. Like most everyone else, Barkley didn’t understand the timing of the move by Suns owner Robert Sarver.

Now, the Suns are reportedly expected to replace McDonough with vice president of basketball operations James Jones, who like Barkley is a former player.

But as was made clear in that report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the narrative lies above whomever is general manager.

“I don’t know James. He was good player, he was a great guy. That doesn’t matter at all if Robert’s not going to let him do his job,” Barkley said.

“The rumors persist that he is too much hands on, too much involved. I’ve heard that from (former Suns GM) Steve Kerr, I’ve heard that from (former Suns forward) Grant Hill, guys I’ve worked with Turner Sports. You can’t hire people and then not let them do their jobs. But firing a general manager after a great offseason — I mean, I’m really excited to watch the Suns play. For the first time, I mean, I can’t remember the (last) time I wanted to see the Suns play.”

Barkley even said that McDonough arguably had the best NBA offseason — Magic Johnson might have issue with that after signing LeBron James. Barkley liked Phoenix’s drafting of Deandre Ayton first overall, the trade-up on draft night to pick Mikal Bridges 10th, plus the free agent pull of Trevor Ariza, a highly-underrated player by Barkley’s standards.

“With the draft and signings he made, that should’ve gave him more leeway,” Barkley said of McDonough. “Seriously, I think Ayton was the best player in the draft, Bridges was a top-10 player and I said one of the reasons I discounted the Houston Rockets (was) because of losing Trevor Ariza, ’cause I think he’s one of the most underrated players in the NBA. Listen, it comes back to (not having) a point guard? I don’t agree with that at all.”

So what would make Barkley want to even entertain another GM gig, say, in a city that knows him well — and vice versa?

“Robert would have to say to me, ‘I’m going to stay out of it, I’m never going to bug you,’ and I would have to have complete control,” Barkley said.

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