Charles Barkley and Joel Embiid have about as contentious a relationship as an analyst and current player can have in today's day and age. The two have sparred back and forth in the media for a while, predominately spurred on by Barkley questioning Embiid's conditioning.
Now, from where I'm sitting, if anyone knows about the value conditioning can bring on the court, it's Barkley, who recently said his entire career trajectory was altered because Moses Malone told him his rookie year in Philadelphia that he wouldn't get playing time unless he changed the fact that he was "fat and lazy." But it's also easy to understand Embiid's frustration that a talking head, no matter how important he was to the franchise Embiid now plays for, won't give him a break about this.
For his part, Barkley is entirely aware of how Embiid feels. In a conversation with ESPN's Nick Friedell, Barkley discussed how his relationship with Michael Jordan fell apart when Barkley criticized Jordan's general management skills with the Charlotte Hornets. But, as Barkley says, it's his job to speak his mind, and he won't hold back, no matter who it was, bringing up Embiid's dislike of him as an example:
""Joel Embiid hates me because I call him lazy. Which, No. 1, I'm like, 'Dude, you got to get in shape to play basketball.' They don't make him practice. It's like, well, he's got bad legs. That's not how you get your legs better. You work out and get your legs better. Get him in the pool or something like that. But he's a great kid, but I'm like, 'Yo, man. You got to get in shape to play basketball.' So I'm going to do my job no matter what.""- Charles Barkley via ESPN
Say anything you want about Sir Charles, he never holds back his opinion. Embiid is sort of in a weird spot as a player; his conditioning is an undeniable issue at certain points, but concerns about Embiid re-injuring himself are also undeniable. It's a very delicate balance to strike that hopping in the pool doesn't necessarily solve.
Still, time allegedly heals all wounds. Maybe we'll see Barkley and Embiid laughing about Embiid's laziness one day. Not anytime soon, I don't think.