Charles Barkley, who spent a large chunk of the NBA season arguing that the Timberwolves' two big-man system would not work in the postseason, was cheered before, during and after Wednesday's Game 1 inside Target Center. TNT set up shop at the top of the first deck of the arena to broadcast the iconic show "Inside the NBA."

Wolves fans either have forgotten that Barkley once doubted them, or they have forgiven him since he changed his stance. There was plenty of love for Chuck. Barkley's gushing over the Wolves' defense in Game 2 against Denver in the second round probably helped. His back-and-forth with Wolves guard Anthony Edwards on Sunday on TNT, during which Edwards descriptively invited him to town, definitely helped as well.

There was quality entertainment to be had on Wednesday just by standing near the temporary studio located at the entrance to section 122 on the west side of the arena, watching Barkley, Draymond Green, Shaquille O'Neal, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson work while chaos ensued around them. There were constant crowds there, with fans standing for the entirety of their shows. Others stopped by to get a peek at the celebrities. One fan thought I was Barkley. I pointed 20 feet over to where he was sitting. The chagrined fan apologized and walked away.

Green's presence added to the raucousness. I'm not a fan of active players appearing as studio analysts — especially in the NBA, where trash-talking is part of the game and often leaks into coverage, for Green in particular. He's a highly intelligent player with a history of hard fouls and skirmishes with opponents. He put Rudy Gobert in a chokehold during a game this season. Unsurprisingly, Green's bias against Gobert and the Wolves has been evident at different moments during the postseason.

While fans were throwing verbal bouquets at Barkley during the show, they were letting Green have it with a colorful-yet-unprintable phrase. The phrase was chanted at least six times during the pregame show and once at halftime, and it could be heard on the broadcast. Shaq raised his hand toward the crowd at one point, an attempt to quiet the jeers from Wolves fans. It should be noted that no one jeered the 6-6 Green when he and the crew walked through the concourse to take an elevator down to floor level.

The show doesn't need Green. It has won 21 Sports Emmy awards because of the cohesiveness and hijinks between Barkley, Shaq, Johnson and Smith. The races with Smith to the videoboard. The exchanges between Barkley and Shaq. Johnson being the master conductor. The show has remained fresh and relevant and is staple of the sports viewing culture. Its unpredictability is a constant and a strength.

My favorite moment: the night Shaq walked onto the set, with cameras rolling, without pants. He claimed Barkley stole them. "This is war," Shaq said.

Fans won't watch the games but tune in before and after to see what the guys are up to. The show has raised a generation of basketball fans, or just folks looking for laughs. That's the grip it has.

"It's pop culture, right," fellow TNT commentator Reggie Miller said. "When you think about those guys, it might be the only show that people record if it is too late. The first thing in the morning, on their phones or at home. They are so in tune with what's going on, not only in basketball but in pop culture and life in general."

The postgame show was somewhat subdued following the Wolves' 108-105 loss to the Mavericks on Wednesday. Green didn't have to crow. Kyrie Irving joined the set and admitted to Barkley that he was motivated by Edwards' announcement before the series that he wanted to guard him. A couple dozen Mavericks fans appeared at the set to cheer. As the staff packed up after the end, Barkley could be heard saying, "Great job everybody. You don't have to go home but you have to get the hell out of here."

Smith to Johnson: "Bring ya ass, Ernie!"

The appearance of "Inside the NBA" here reflects the status the Wolves have reached as a championship contender, something no one saw coming five years ago. Now Barkley and his crew can opine about a Wolves team that should be relevant for years to come.

But they won't. Reports this week have the NBA signing lucrative television deals with networks and platforms other than TNT. The show will leave the air following the conclusion of next season.

Just when the Wolves become one of the elite teams in the league, the best sports show of this era is nearing the end of its run.

That's crummy. But at least Barkley had a nice steak during his visit here.

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