Barkley's talking this time retirement Suns' star ponders going out on top NBA Finals notebook


PHOENIX -- Charles Barkley, determined to steal the spotlight on and off the court from Bulls superstar Michael Jordan, hinted after Friday night's victory in Chicago that he might retire if his Phoenix Suns win the NBA championship.

"It's something I would seriously consider," said Barkley, 30, a veteran of nine NBA seasons. "I think it would be profound to leave on top like [pro football Hall of Famer] Jim Brown.

"If I keep playing, my skills are going to deteriorate. Why not retire on top? It's kind of intriguing.

"If we win the title," said Barkley, "no other athlete can say he accomplished what I did this year -- an Olympic gold medal, league MVP and a championship ring. There would be nothing left for me to accomplish."

No solace for Horace

No Bull was more disconsolate Friday night after Chicago failed to clinch the title at home than power forward Horace Grant, who was limited to four shots and one point in 38 minutes.

Grant, who has been categorized as the unsung hero playing in the shadow of celebrated teammates Jordan and Scottie Pippen, had averaged 16.3 points in the finals before Game 5.

"I've got to do some serious soul-searching," Grant said. "That was one of the worst games of my life. I didn't do anything out there, and my teammates feed off my energy.

"I tried to go to the offensive boards, but they did a great job on me. And my jump shot wasn't falling. I was too hyped. I was totally out of sync."

His teammates did their best to console him.

"I know Horace is feeling the worst of all of us," said Jordan. "He just couldn't play the type of basketball he's capable of. But Horace should hold his head high, shake it off and come back strong Sunday."

Alibis ready

If the Bulls fail in their quest for a third consecutive championship, there are already some explanations being prepared.

"Michael and Scottie came back from the Olympics tired physically and mentally," said defensive coach John Bach. "And John Paxson and Bill Cartwright were recovering from injuries."

Left unsaid was that Barkley also participated in the Olympics and that the Suns are minus starting forward Cedric Ceballos, sidelined for the finals with a stress fracture in his left foot.

Finally a finisher

In the first four games, Suns coach Paul Westphal employed offensive-minded rookie forward Richard Dumas to help the team start quickly. He scored 13 in the first quarter of Game 3 and 10 in the first quarter of Game 4.

But with the game on the line, Westphal would bench Dumas in favor of veterans Danny Ainge or Tom Chambers. That pattern changed in the Suns' 108-98 victory Friday night.

"We usually do a lot of rotations in the second half, and I'm not out there as much," said Dumas. "But this time Paul said he was keeping me in at the end. I guess he has a knack for knowing when you're playing well."

Said Westphal of Dumas' 12-for-14 shooting performance: "Richard was on fire tonight. I really only change things if we're behind, and if we catch up with a different lineup, I stick with it. But this time the lead was growing and I didn't have to change things."

Chicago coach Phil Jackson said the Bulls would have to pay closer attention to Dumas, and Jordan agreed.

"I think we definitely have to focus on him more than we've been doing," said Jordan.

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