PHILADELPHIA -- The long, strange season that has been Charles Barkley's seventh in a Philadelphia 76ers uniform took another unfortunate turn yesterday. This time, it wasn't his fault.
Barkley's left knee was rammed by a falling Rick Mahorn, and the resulting sprain will keep the controversy-laden team captain out of action for a minimum of two weeks.
The injury happened midway through the third period of the Sixers' 110-101 win over Cleveland at the Spectrum. It came at the worst of times for the Sixers, who have been scrambling desperately to gain a home-court advantage for the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Three games behind Milwaukee with 10 games to play, the 76ers' condition has been downgraded to grim.
"We have to pick it up in all areas," Philadelphia coach Jim Lynam said. "The last time Charles was out, we played well enough to have a chance to win. We just have to rise to the occasion."
In January, with Barkley out with a minor fracture in his left ankle, the Sixers went 2-5. They will need to do much better than that not only to catch the Bucks, but to avoid dropping behind Atlanta.
Barkley, scheduled for a more complete examination today, will miss at least five games. Owner Harold Katz said the Sixers would probably not add a player -- a move that would require placing their All-Star forward on the injured list.
"There seems to be a good possibility he'll be back in two weeks," Katz said. "If we can stay in the hunt, then we'll be all right."