Warriors can exhale, Barkley picks Thunder

On the the eve of their season opener, the Warriors received some unexpected good news.

TNT comedian Charles Barkley picked the Oklahoma City Thunder to win the Western Conference title, which means the Champs have an excellent chance to repeat. As you might recall, Chuckles counted the Warriors out last season because they relied too heavily on jumpshots.

“They got everything,” Barkley raved about the Thunder at a local TNT tipoff event Monday. “I’ve been complaining for a lot of years that, until they got a low-post scorer, they were not gonna win anything. Now they got one in [Enes] Kanter. He can dominate down low. They can put him on the floor with [Serge] Ibaka and those other two boys. And you got [Steven] Adams coming in, you got [Mitch] McGary coming in. Man, they are loaded. If Russell [Westbrook] and K.D. [Kevin Durant] can stay healthy…”

Barkley had the Warriors ranked below the Thunder with the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers.

Barkley on the Warriors: ”They got a really good team. They’re deeper than people give them credit for. They got the best backcourt in the NBA. I don’t think they’re gonna repeat. I said they got a chance.”

Could be more than the Thunder that are loaded.

LINE FORMS AT THE RIGHT: Barkley will be available for catcalls at Pier 43 at 4 p.m. today, when the “Inside the NBA” crew is scheduled to provide analysis before, during and after the game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

AGREE TO DISAGREE: While Barkley dismissed the absence of coach Steve Kerr as no biggie, sidekick Kenny Smith said his extended loss would be a serious blow.

“Steve Kerr being out is not going to be a detriment,” Barkley told Balls. “He’s not going to be out for the season, so I don’t think it’s as big a deal [as some believe]. I think Steve will be back in the next week [or] the next two weeks.

“In the West, it’s not going to matter. You just got to get through the West healthy. Once the playoffs starts, once you get past the first round, it’s gonna be Golden State versus Oklahoma City. The Spurs are gonna to be playing the Clippers.”

Said Smith, ever the voice of reason, “By Christmas, you start to get on the high end [of concern], because you’re creating a style of play. [Kerr’s] decisions might not always be right, but they’re always right for that team. ‘Let me take this guy out 15 seconds early. Let me keep this guy in 15 seconds longer.’ That’s where coaching comes in. It’s just that feel to understand that when to and when not to [make a move] is key.”

ONE MORE BRICK: Barkley all but called Warriors management a bunch a money-grabbers for the decision to move the team back to San Francisco, which showed how out of touch with reality he really was.

“Man, these teams are making so much money, they’re really not overly concerned about the fans,” Barkley said. “We’re becoming like the NFL. What — you don’t want the truth? We’re kind of like the NFL — we don’t give a [piece of manure]. We just make money. We’re not about the fans anymore.”

As Barkley obviously wasn’t aware, the Warriors franchise moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco five decades ago, and it belonged in a state-of-the-art facility there for a lot of reasons.

“They have a tremendous fan base,” Barkley said. “I’m disappointed that they’re going to leave Oakland. They’ve always been amazing fans. … You want a rabid fan base, and [Oracle Arena] is always loud. Even when the team was no good, it was loud.”

True, Oakland fans have been loyal to the team, but it’s not like the Warriors are headed to Carson or anything. Now they can make the same trip to home games that San Francisco residents have been expected to make for decades.

CLIP ’N’ SAVE: Ten predictions on the Warriors season:

Sixty-seven victories in the regular season are out of the question. Make it 56, give or take one or two.

If Kerr returns to the bench before Santa Claus comes to town, the Champs will return to the NBA Finals…

Where they will lose Game 7 to the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road.

As usual, the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers will talk the most, but the San Antonio Spurs will be their biggest obstacle in the Western Conference.

In the midst of a 12-game win streak, they’ll be criticized for a favorable schedule.

The health of 31-year-old Andre Iguodala will have a lot to say about their repeat bid.

Draymond Green will provide an added dimension with a new-and-improved post-up game.

Stephen Curry will light up the Clippers’ Chris Paul and the Twitter world with a ridiculous move once again.

Former assistant coach Alvin Gentry will be missed more than anyone could have imagined.

TALE OF TWO QBs: The Raiders’ David Carr and the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick are two quarterbacks passing in the night, and Carr nailed the reason after his team laid waste to the San Diego-Carson Chargers on Sunday.

“I just trust [wide receiver Amari Cooper], and trust is a big thing,” Carr said. “Coach [Jack Del Rio] asks us to trust each other, trust the man to your left and your right.”

Of course, it’s a lot easier to keep the faith when your line keeps you upright and your best receiver turns a quick screen into a 52-yard touchdown.

MAN AMONG BOYS: Cooper is listed at 21 years old, but don’t believe it. Anyone who saw that sick ankle-breaker of his knows that the kid is at least five years older in football years.

Cooper gained 519 yards in his first six NFL games, something only future Hall of Famers Anquan Boldin (592) and Randy Moss (527) did since the AFL-NFL merger.

Memo to Tim Brown: Enjoy your place in the Raiders’ record book while it lasts.

HELL FREEZES OVER: Hey, look, not only didn’t Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden finish a game with wind burn, but he also intercepted a pass!

ROYAL RULE: The odds-makers are split between the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets in the World Series — uh, you know, the Fall Classic — but Balls likes the Royals to get it right this time.

The Mets have the power arms to dominate a short series, which is what they did against the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS, but the Royals are not the Cubs. They put the ball in play, play great defense and let their bullpen do the rest. The American League champs are one year older than the team that the Giants beat in seven games last season — and this is important — they also have the home field advantage.

Call it Royals in six.

THE LIST: Courtesy of Bovada, Projected NBA team win totals for the season ahead:

Warriors, 59.5

San Antonio Spurs, 58.5

Cleveland Cavaliers, 57.5

Los Angeles Clippers, 56.5

Oklahoma City Thunder, 56.5

Houston Rockets, 54.5

Chicago Bulls, 50.5

Memphis Grizzlies, 50.5


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