LANDOVER -- And now the latest entry in the Diary of Sir Charles, that bulging digest of remarks no one else would dare utter, including a few that shock even himself.
Stop the presses!
Here's one Charles Barkley wanted back.
This was last night, after our hero single-handedly decided thathe Philadelphia 76ers would win and the Washington Bullets would lose for the first time this season.
Evidently Sir Charles didn't watch Bullets general manager John Nash in a pre-game interview, recalling talks they once had about the ultimate run-and-shoot weapon -- his mouth.
There he was in a post-game Home Team Sports interview, standing at center court in the Capital Centre, addressing the few remaining fans, longing for his favorite former GM.
"You all stole John Nash from us," Barkley told the departing crowd after the Sixers' 107-106 victory. "He's doing a good job. Wish we could have him back. All we have is Gene Shue."
The NFL would bury Barkley under yellow penalty flags anorder him to cease and desist. Major-league baseball would fine him for remarks "detrimental to the spirit of the game."
Mercifully, this is the NBA.
Free speech permitted.
Barkley spoke his mind last week when he accurately predicted the Sixers would keep center Dave Hoppen rather than open the season with an all-black team in racially polarized Philadelphia.
The subject he raised last night was far less explosive, but it was just like Barkley to blurt out something completely unpredictable with no apparent motivation.
Gene Shue is the Sixers general manager, as well as the Bulletformer coach. No doubt he was delighted to be zinged by his star player on an otherwise happy occasion.
Ah, everyone relax. Barkley said, "Oooh," the moment after huttered the words. Why, he even offered an edited version upon returning to the Sixers locker room.
"I said they've got a good man," Barkley explained. "All we've gois a good Shue."
A joke, get it? Well, maybe, maybe not. But as Barkleyisms go, iseems pretty harmless. After all, Sir Charles isn't simply the straw that stirs the drink. He's the blender itself.
People sometimes forget he's that way on the court too, which is why he can blurt all those provocative things in the first place. You might not agree with what he says. But you've got to love the way he plays.
Disgusted by the Sixers' 0-2 record, he was an absolute wrecking ball last night, scoring 33 points, grabbing 19 rebounds, dishing off to Hersey Hawkins for the winning basket with 5.7 seconds left.
In between, he took time to compliment Bullets coach WeUnseld on his tie, shake former teammate David Wingate's hand and joke with the referees during a brief altercation between Ron Anderson and Harvey Grant.
Of course, he was serious when it counted. The Sixers traile106-102 when Armon Gilliam converted a three-point play with 33.5 seconds remaining. Barkley then stomped out to center court and harassed Ledell Eackles into a 24-second violation, literally flying at the ball as time expired.
The decisive sequence followed, with Gilliam alertly taking thinbounds pass when Barkley could not shake free. Barkley rushed forward for the ball, then thundered down the lane. Two Bullets awaited, so he simply hit Hawkins with a bounce pass for a layup.
"He's just a great player," said Bullets guard Michael Adams, who had another sensational night himself, with 33 points and 15 assists. "He does his thing, and when he does that, they win. Tonight he'll do the talking."
Adams was right about that.
In fact, Barkley took mild offense at Adams' most spectaculamove of the night, the one where he circled the ball behind his back twice before passing to A.J. English for a layup.
"It's physically impossible [without traveling]," Barkley said. "Michael Adams is so quick, the referee didn't see it go around but one time."
Said Hawkins, "The referee must have been just as happy witthe play as the crowd was. That's how I figure it."
Whatever, Barkley spoke of wanting to win "really bad." Hcalled the Bullets "a good little team." And he had a logical explanation when teammate Brian Oliver teased him about falling short of 20 rebounds: "I ran out of time."
At one point afterward, Redskins linebacker Wilber Marshall paia visit. "You all are rolling like a big Mack truck," Barkley said. Then someone asked if last week's commotion was over. "Racism is with you every day, brother," he replied.
There are whites who scoff at his charge that the Sixers useracial motives in making a roster decision. And there are blacks who much prefer him to the most popular black NBA superstar, the image-conscious Michael Jordan.
Barkley never worries about such things, he simply speaks himind. The Diary of Sir Charles gets thicker each day. As for last night, well, sure hope Gene Shue wasn't reading.