PHILADELPHIA -- The superstar was packing yesterday. He'll fly to Phoenix today to be formally introduced by his new team.
From there, Charles Barkley will go to San Diego to begin workouts with the other members of the U.S. Olympic team.
He'll be back in Philadelphia again, of course, though never as the local superstar. Eight years is a long time, but Barkley didn't have any tears in his eyes after a night to reflect on the Wednesday trade that is sending him to the Phoenix Suns.
"It's good for everybody," Barkley said. "I've had eight great years here, but from a selfish standpoint, the trade is the best thing that could have happened to me."
So he's gone, which leaves new 76ers coach Doug Moe to sort out what's left, and what will be added by the three players Barkley was traded for: Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry and Andrew Lang.
At the same time, the Sixers also have a draft selection to make next week, and, in all probability, another trade or two to pull off.
General manager Jim Lynam wasn't sure yesterday how he felt about the first trade of his brief tenure in office, but he still thought it was a good one.
"Charles said that he didn't know whether to feel happy, sad or ambivalent," Lynam said. "There's been so much activity, right through today, that I've felt it's been similarly difficult to gauge my emotions."
Lynam isn't the type to look behind him, anyway. Ahead is the draft and the sweet possibility that other teams might be willing to make mistakes.
"It's not like I have a master plan or blueprint in my head," Lynam said. "But having coached this team, I had strong feelings about some of the problem areas. We had to make significant changes. It didn't have to be Charles, but when we realized how limited our options were, to improve the team that was the prudent course to follow."
The Sixers got three starters from the Phoenix team that won 53 games last season. Hornacek, the Suns' leading scorer, was the most important cog obtained. Perry and Lang are athletic defenders and good rebounders blockers. Both, like Hornacek, seem suited to play the wide-open motion game used by Moe.
The trade changes how the Sixers view next week's draft. Although there is a great deal of debate about who the first eight picks will be, it appears increasingly possible that Southern Cal guard Harold Miner might still be available when the Sixers pick ninth.
But with Hornacek and Hersey Hawkins at the shooting guard spot, the Sixers have more than enough talent there. They might even have too much.
"With Charles out of the picture, there is the opportunity for some other players to emerge," Lynam said. "When you're playing with a talent like Charles Barkley, others tend to defer to his ability and his desire to take over a game. The two guys who most readily come to mind would be Hersey Hawkins and Armon Gilliam."