http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/basketball/bulls/ct-spt-0325-haugh-charles-barkley--20100324,0,4684889.columnTell Charles Barkley that Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro is as popular in Chicago as a pothole on Madison Street and look out. Within seconds a run-on sentence from the Round Mound of Rebuttal will ram you into a rhetorical corner.
The most compelling sports analyst on TV, Barkley believes in Vinny more than Vinny's bosses believe in Vinny. Or at least nobody at the Berto Center ever has been as public or passionate in supporting Del Negro as Barkley, in town for TNT and NBA.com to call Thursday night's Bulls-Heat game courtside at the United Center.
"I don't understand why Vinny gets blamed,'' Barkley told the Tribune on Wednesday. "When Vinny had a healthy team, they had the fifth or sixth seed in the East. He can't do anything about injuries. Let's be realistic. This team, if they were healthy, wouldn't be any higher than fourth anyway in the East.''
As Barkley paused for a breath, he was told that despite any growth Del Negro may have shown as a head coach, whispers persist he will be replaced soon after the season ends regardless. The thought of Del Negro returning for a third season would be the job-saving equivalent of, say, Northern Iowa beating Kansas in the NCAA tournament.