(Alex Brandon/AP)

Charles Barkley was attempting to disparage almost every team in the NBA Eastern Conference on Thursday morning on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” program, including the Washington Wizards. But in the process of disparaging them, he said one of the nicest things anyone has said about the Wizards in five or six years. No backhanded comment has ever meant so much to so many D.C. NBA fans.

This started when Barkley was asked if he saw potential in the Brooklyn Nets, a team that has lagged behind a bunch of Eastern Conference teams all season, but one that obviously moves the ESPN Radio needle more than, say, Atlanta.

“I don’t think they’re any good at all,” Barkley said, refusing to play along. “Listen, you’ve only got two teams in the East: you’ve got the Heat and you’ve got the Pacers. I actually think probably the Washington Wizards are probably the third-best team in the Eastern Conference.”


(Near as I can tell, the Wizards haven’t finished among the top three teams in the Eastern Conference since 1979, when they were the East’s top seed. That was 35 years ago. That’s a long time.)

“But listen, I could get on here and lie to you, but listen, it’s the Heat and the Pacers,” Barkley said, commencing with the “backhanded” part of this particular compliment. “Nobody else is any good. The West is fascinating. I still think Oklahoma City is the best team in the West. The Clippers are a really solid team. I think the Spurs can’t get healthy, because they’re old. Oklahoma City in the West, and in the East it’s just the Pacers and the Heat, and nobody else is even worth talking about, to be honest with you.”

Well, okay. But maybe just a couple sentences here and there about the third-best team, now and then.