Night with Barkley anything but dull

KEN ROSENTHAL

January 23, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

LANDOVER -- A night with Sir Charles:

5:30: Charles Barkley is standing near courtside, scanning the Capital Centre for the location of his complimentary tickets, when Phoenix guard Negele Knight appears.

"Don't pick on me, because I'm by myself," Knight warns.

Barkley stares at him curiously.

"All it takes is a whistle . . ." Knight says.

That does it.

Barkley ignites at the reference to his recent one-game suspension -- he vaulted over a scorer's table to argue with a referee -- and attacks Knight in mock fury.

Out of nowhere, Oliver Miller and Cedric Ceballos rush to the assistance of their smaller teammate, jumping Barkley in a hallway outside the Suns' locker room.

The NBA's best team, hard at play.

"Is that how y'all feel about me?" Barkley cries.

"WWF," Ceballos responds.

5:45: Miller gets face-to-face with Barkley and does his best imitation of Robin Ficker, the obnoxious fan who sits behind the opposing bench and screams at rival players.

"He's going to be killing you tonight," Barkley tells Miller, the Suns' 300-pound rookie. "He'll be killing me, too."

6:05: Where's Charles?

A Suns publicist says he's trying to track down a young fan who handed him a card with $50, presumably to help defray his latest $10,000 fine.

6:10: Barkley resurfaces behind the Phoenix bench while several of his teammates warm up.

Miller won't stop.

"This is David Stern calling," he shouts to Barkley. "Answer the phone, Charles."

6:15: After mingling with some fans, Barkley finally makes his way toward the Suns' locker room, but not without a final slap upside Miller's head.

6:25: Barkley enters the locker room, only to find rookie forward Richard Dumas admiring the new sneakers in his locker.

"Ten rebounds a game, and you can have them," Barkley tells Dumas, who is averaging 4.1 rebounds.

Before Dumas can reply, Barkley reconsiders.

L "This is fair," he says. "Ten rebounds, two games in a row."

Wait, now Barkley has it figured out.

"For every rebound you get over seven the rest of the year, I'll give you $10," he says. "For every rebound you don't get under seven, you give me $10."

Dumas swiftly agrees.

Ceballos, sitting nearby, starts laughing.

"He ain't no businessman," Barkley says.

"Make it six," Dumas says.

"No, no, no," Barkley replies, laughing.

6:30: Barkley cuts short an interview.

"I have a TV show," he explains. "I'm a personality."

6:35: "Where's Wes?" Barkley cries outside the Bullets' locker room, awaiting his TV guest, Wes Unseld. "I'm going to whip his butt."

6:40: Back in the locker room, a TV reporter intones breathlessly, "Charles, I saw you in the soap opera, 'Santa Barbara.' "

"Great acting, I might add," Barkley replies.

7:40: Introductions. The usual cheers and jeers.

8:05: End of first quarter. Ficker holds up four carrots behind the Phoenix bench. "Come and get it. Here's your dinner. How about some vegetables, Charles Barkley?"

8:35: End of first half. Barkley hits a three, the Suns take a 59-57 lead, and Ficker foams at the mouth.

9:30: Five minutes left. Barkley blows past Pervis Ellison and hits a fadeaway in the lane to give the Suns a 110-102 lead. He is now 8-for-8, but seconds later, he misses his first shot -- flipping the ball behind his head while falling out of bounds.

9:50: Suns win, 122-115. Barkley misses his second shot -- a long, arcing three as time expires. He finishes with 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

Dumas finishes with 26 points, but only five rebounds.

He owes Barkley $20.

"I'm going to talk him out of it," he says.

10:00: Barkley leaves the court after his post-game interview, signs a dozen or so autographs, then tosses the $100 watch given to him by HTS to a young fan.

10:05: Matt Sims, a community college student from Annapolis, is standing outside the Phoenix locker room. He's the thoughtful fan who gave Barkley $50. Barkley returned his money, autographed his card and got him a special pass.

He greets Sims warmly, shakes his hand.

"That's probably the nicest thing ever done for me since I've been in the NBA," Barkley tells reporters.

A big teddy bear, that Charles.

Just ask the refs.

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