Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith are back in Boston

Welcome back Chuckster.

And Kenny Smith too.

Charles Barkley and Smith came back for the first of their three-game NBA championships studio appearances on NBA TV from Boston.

When Barkley and Smith are on TNT, maestro Ernie Johnson is the host, but Johnson is off to baseball so self-effacing Matt Winer slipped in between Smith and a third analyst, Kevin McHale, with a tentative list of notes and the good sense to understand he might have to throw the notes away.

As Winer said, “I’ve got to be ready to wrangle Charles and Kenny. Who knows? I might ask Charles how the Lakers are going to play Ray Allen and he might tell a story about having lunch with President Obama.”

Well, not exactly.

But Barkley came ready with opinions and props and pointed questions.

Early in the pregame show, Barkley held up a picture of Allen and said, " Shannon Brown, this is Ray Allen. Do not leave him. Shannon Brown, three or four times, was cheating. You don’t leave that guy. That’s my first prop tonight.”

And the second prop?

Photos of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Barkley accompanied those props by saying, “Lakers, feel free to pound the ball inside to your two 7-footers. They can’t match up with these guys.”

During the postgame show, Barkley had this question for Gasol:

“Do you get frustrated at times when the Lakers don’t take advantage of your excellence?”

Long answer short from Gasol? “Well, sometimes,” Gasol said. You don’t often get that kind of question from a studio analyst.

And clearly, NBA TV isn’t getting much preferential treatment, at least for postgame interviews. A parade of somber-looking, green-wearing women filed by Gasol in some narrow hallway, prompting Smith to say, “I don’t know where you’re sitting, Pau, where you’re getting so much traffic.”

Winer suggested perhaps Gasol was sitting in a supply closet. Maybe before Thursday the league’s network can get a room.

Lakers fans might be getting a little prickly with Barkley but isn’t it hard to argue with this?

Barkley said the Lakers and Celtics are evenly matched. “The Lakers have the most talent realistically,” he said. “But the Celtics are a much tougher team mentally. The Lakers win on talent. The Celtics win on toughness. I love the contrast, the team that has the most talent against the tougher team.”

Best use of replay

Not on those end of game out-of-bounds plays. If the replay shows an obvious foul on Rajon Rondo, whose arm lock caused Lamar Odom to fumble a rebound out of bounds, let’s just not have replay. Plus the three of them Tuesday night made the ending couple of minutes seem endless.

Who didn’t wipe away tears?

Derek Fisher choked up as he tried to participate in Doris Burke’s postgame interview and it was such a contrast to Kobe Bryant’s unemotional face and voice.

A little more John Wooden

Besides having the treasure of John Wooden, Southern California has been blessed with amazing media voices, and we were all reminded of that with Vin Scully’s touching tribute to Wooden on the Dodger Stadium big screen and also during the rebroadcast of the “Scully & Wooden for the Kids” program from 2008 at the Nokia Theater (thanks Prime Ticket).

We were also reminded of how wonderful ESPN Classic can be. The day after the 99-year-old Wooden passed away, ESPN Classic began a loop of old UCLA games — including the last game Wooden coached, his 10th national championship from San Diego when the Bruins beat Kentucky.

If only ESPN Classic was always so classic.

And as much as Wooden was remembered all week as a great teacher of lessons moral and basketball, he also wanted to win. A lot. Did you notice Wooden getting on those refs in that San Diego game? Classic.

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