Charlotte Hornets center Mike Gminski was telling everyone within earshot at the Capital Centre on Sunday afternoon that he heard Philadelphia 76ers owner Harold Katz wants to unload "bad boys" Charles Barkley and Rick Mahorn.
Gminski, traded by Philadelphia to the Hornets earlier this season for forward Armon Gilliam, remains friendly with most of the 76ers and is familiar with Katz's growing disaffection with Barkley.
Meanwhile, the 76ers' leading scorer (28.3 points per game) and rebounder (10.3 per game) will be out of action at least two weeks with a slightly torn knee ligament, the result of a collision with Mahorn in Sunday's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The fall caused a second-degree sprain of the medial collateral ligament -- considered a slight tear -- that will keep Barkley sidelined until at least April 14, said team doctor Jack McPhilemy. The regular season ends April 21.
"It's a minimum of two weeks -- and I want to emphasize minimum -- before we would even consider letting him get involved in basketball," McPhilemy said.
Katz apparently decided he no longer could endure Barkley's childish tantrums after "Sir Charles" spit on an 8-year-old girl during the 76ers road game with the New Jersey Nets Tuesday. Barkley was fined $10,000 and suspended one game.
Barkley, who said his spit was mis-directed, said, "As far as the spitting, that was totally wrong, but it's not like I killed somebody or beat them to a pulp."
This was only one of a number of unseemly incidents Barkley has been involved in this season. Also last month, he was engaged in a locker-room fight with spindly center Manute Bol and was fined $5,000 for shouting at head coach Jim Lynam, who benched him after a technical.
All told, Barkley has drawn 12 technicals this season, 16 fewer than the previous year. In his seven-year pro career, his league fines have totaled almost $100,000, mostly for fighting, but also for abusing fans publicly.
Asked Sunday whether he is considering trading Barkley before next season, Katz said, "We're heading into the playoffs, and this is not the time to discuss the possibility of a trade."
Mahorn, a defensive specialist, also has a rambunctious nature, and quickly joins in Barkley's clubhouse horseplay. Viewed as a team leader, Mahorn has done little, if anything, to stifle Barkley's outbursts.
But trading an impact player like Barkley could prove difficult. The 76ers would have to demand one or more No. 1 draft picks from a lottery-bound team, and possibly a proven player in return.
The names of at least two National Basketball Association coaches -- the Denver Nuggets' Paul Westhead and the Minnesota Timberwolves' Bill Musselman -- have appeared on the list of endangered species.
They have tried to win using diametrically different systems, Westhead with a run-and-gun offense, and Musselman with his milk-the-clock philosophy. Both have met with failure, although a lack of talent has much to do with the negative results.
Musselman, in his second year with the Timberwolves, may be in more danger than Westhead. Several of his players have voiced displeasure with his coaching methods and substitution patterns.
Minneapolis reporters are speculating on a likely successor. Wolves president Bob Stein reportedly favors Milwaukee assistant Mack Calvin. Said co-owner Marv Wolfenson, "We don't give votes of confidence."
Westhead, who was fired by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1981 for failing to coach an uptempo style, recently won the support of Nuggets majority owner Bob Wussler.
As Wussler told the Rocky Mountain News: "We're extremely fond of Westhead. We'd like to go out and get him the kind of players he needs and keep him here for a couple of years."
Westhead also gave himself a pat on the back. "If I were in the owners' shoes, I'd give me more time," he said. "But it doesn't matter who's coaching. Changes in personnel will have to be made for this team to win."
More Musselman: A Minneapolis paper accused the Wolves coach of sending his ball boy to the opponents' locker room with a stack of basketball trading cards to be autographed.
Musselman admits he collects cards, but denied soliciting rival players for autographs. "I wouldn't take a chance on embarrassing my team like that," he said.