Mocking Charles Barkley for his insistence that Kobe Bryant’s failure to take more than 3 shots during the 2nd half of Saturday’s Game 7 between the Lakers and Suns was “selfish” (“TNTexecs are charmed, I’m sure, that Charles Barkley has yet to utter a significant or grammatically correct statement since joining the nitwork.”), the New York Post’s Peter Vescey has no problem with spreading the blame around.

Why did Kobe clam up in the second half down 15? We understand Barkley is too lame to figure it out on his own. But he didn’t even get it after Phil Jackson explained the Lakers tried to exploit Steve Nash’s gimpy right ankle by increasing Smush Parker’s offensive freedom.

“I couldn’t have stayed out there the whole second half,” Nash confessed at the podium. “I was having trouble just limping around.” With any luck, Nash didn’t expend too much energy yesterday when the NBA presented him with a second straight MVP award.

Jackson said the second-half plan was to go back inside to Odom and Kwame Brown in hopes of energizing the Lakers and reestablishing their confidence.

Neither strategy worked. Smush went poof, again, under the acute atmospheric conditions, and Phoenix’s pressure chamber had long since decomposed Odom and Brown. The more their carcasses decayed, the more Suns congregated around Kobe.

It’s unsophisticated – asinine, actually – to think Kobe could stage a 15-point comeback all by his lonesome.

Presumably, a future Vescey column will take Dee Brown to task, after the ESPN commentator declared that Bryant had “given up” on Saturday.

In addition to predicting the outcome of every game of the forthcoming Nets/Heat series (“if any of this is inaccurate in any way, we™ll do what comes naturally: We™ll blame the refs.”), the Newark Star Ledger’s Dave D’Allesandro caught up with Miami’s Pat Riley at this morning’s shootaround :

Riles, who with the possible exception of Sasha Danilovic and Martin Muursepp has never exactly been a big fan of Euros, is smitten by one:

œA lot of Europeans, you know, I don™t know that much about them, he said, as he began his analysis of Nenad Krstic (above). œI was familiar with him when they drafted him, only from numbers and seeing him on film. But I think like Nocioni and some of these other guys, I think the year that (Krstic) stayed away was good for him. He™s really developed. He™s on his way. If he™s much better, he™s going to be one of the better players in this league. He can really shoot. He™s gotten quicker. He™s more comfortable. He™s got a post-up game inside. He™s got good mobility on defense and pick and rolls and stuff. So they did a great job of drafting him. He™s developed, done a good job.

Coach, if you don™t know, is probably the most geographically-challenged fellow since Columbus “ not only does he still refer to Nets beat people as œYou #$&@&* New York guys, he has yet to learn that Nocioni is American, of the Southern variety.

The Association’s Craig Kwasniewski, unlike D’Allesandro, is content to cut to the chase, picking the Heat in 5 :

You will hear a lot how New Jersey’s quickness and athleticism will cause problems with the older and slower Heat. You will hear how Nenad Krstic will draw Shaq out on the perimeter and render the Diesel ineffective on defense. You will hear a ton of “experts” take New Jersey as their sleeper.

So what’s the difference between this year’s New Jersey team and last season’s one that got swept by the Heat in the first round? So suddenly Nenad Krstic is a difference maker? Shaq has made a career killing Euro-trash beard-wearing centers (Vlade Divac anyone?). So how is New Jersey going to stop Shaq? I know the ’06 Shaq is not the three-peat Lakers Shaq, but he’s also not the 01-02 Hakeem Olajuwon who was hobbling around with Toronto. He can still bring his A game 3 or 4 times a series.