(Chris Young / AP Photo/The Canadian Press)

When last we heard from Charles Barkley on the Wizards, he was telling ESPN Radio that Washington has the third-best team in the Eastern Conference.

That, though, was three weeks ago. In the interim, Nene went down with a sprained knee, and the team lost to Cleveland at home and dropped a pair of heartbreakers on the road, and the national bandwagon never really got going.

Now the Wizards have won five straight — including Thursday’s triple-overtime ordeal in Toronto, which was briefly shown on national television — and the attention could start soon. Barkley isn’t changing his mind, either.

“Listen, I told you, I think the Wizards are gonna be the third-best team in the Eastern Conference,” he said late Thursday. “I’m a little concerned with the injury to Nene, but Gortat, if he keeps playing like that? On paper, just on paper — you don’t play games on paper — as far as having good offense at the guards position and defense and big guys, the Wizards have the most talent. Chicago’s great defensively but I don’t think they can score enough on a nightly basis.”

Then Shaq asked Barkley if he thought the Wizards would be behind the Bulls at this point in the season.

“I thought they’d be ahead of Chicago to be honest with you,” Barkley said. “How many overtime games have they played? And what’s their record? They’re 3-6 [in overtime]. Wall and Beal are so young, and they’re still trying to learn how to win. They should have five more wins. I talked to Ernie Grunfeld at the All-Star Game. He said thanks for the kind words you said about the Wizards. I said I like your team. John Wall has really grown and matured. Bradley Beal, I think he’s gonna be a great shooting guard. Nene, I like his game, he’s just got to stay healthy. I love Gortat.

“You know, listen, if you’ve got four really good players in the Eastern Conference?” Barkley went on. “There’s nobody else, other than Miami and Indiana, that’s got four guys that good, to be honest with you.”