Jim Barnett talks about Rick Adelman, stars of yesteryear and Steph Curry

Warriors TV analyst Jim Barnett is seen in a 2011 file photo. CC BY 2.0

Warriors TV analyst Jim Barnett loves to talk about basketball.

Which is why he has the perfect job. A job he’s done with distinction on Golden State telecasts since 1985.

Barnett’s ability to break down the intricacies of a game is top notch. He’s also a gifted storyteller, as evidenced by Kerry Eggers’ in-depth interview with him this week in the Portland Tribune.

A few big highlights from the interview with the 74-year-old who insists he’s not interested in retiring:

“You played with Adelman with three organizations — San Diego, Portland and New Orleans. He went on to be a great head coach in the NBA and ranks ninth on the career list with 1,042 regular-season wins. Did you see anything in him as a player that would make him a great coach? he was asked.

Barnett: “Rick came into the league with San Diego as a seventh-round draft pick out of Loyola Marymount. The only reason he made it as a rookie was he got hurt early in the exhibition season and couldn’t play for several weeks. By the time he got back, several guards had played themselves off the team. Our coach, Jack McMahon, liked him. Rick had trouble scoring. He couldn’t create his own shot. But he could run a team. He was unselfish. He wasn’t quick at all, but he was the best I’ve ever seen at picking off passes at halfcourt.

“His coaching success didn’t surprise me. He always wanted to be a coach. I don’t think I could have ever been a head coach. I didn’t see the game like coaches saw the game. But as a player, Rick was a thinker. He was always planning ahead, looking at matchups that would work and what wouldn’t. I just played. Rick became a great coach, and he should be in the Hall of Fame.”

He was later asked this: “You played in a legendary time in the NBA in the ’60’s and ’70’s with some of the true greats of the game. You played on teams with 11 Hall-of-Famers — Russell, Havlicek, Sam and K.C. Jones, Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, Julius Erving, Elvin Hayes, Pete Maravich, Nate Thurmond and Rick Barry. What are your memories of playing with those guys?”

Barnett’s response: “It’s pretty remarkable when you think about it. Sam Jones could shoot just as well as Stephen Curry from both midrange and from long range. I also played against some of the all-time greats. Jerry West was the toughest guy I ever had to guard. I had to guard quick guys like Calvin Murphy and Nate Archibald. Those great players of that era would be great players today.”

Analyzing a legend

Eggers also asked him this: “Where does Curry rank among the great guards in history?”

Barnett’s response was profound. (Yes, he’s a big Steph Curry fan.)

“He’s on his own plateau,” the analyst said of the Warriors superstar. “You cannot compare him to anyone who’s ever played. There has never been anyone like him. His presence on the court is more than just his production. He is the greatest long-distance shooter of all time. What he brings with his leadership is incredible, but he has transformed the game, and also transformed the audience. There aren’t many kids who think they can be the next LeBron James, but millions out there think they could be Stephen Curry. His influence on the game is different than anyone, ever. Is he better than West or Oscar Robertson or Kobe (Bryant) or Pistol Pete? He’s different than those guys. I’d want him on my team as much anybody in the history of the game at the guard position.”

A podcast highlighting Eggers’ extended conversation with Barnett is linked in the article.

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Die-hard hoop fans can also follow Barnett’s insights on the NBA via Twitter: https://twitter.com/uograd66