Barkley's mouth already moving in midseason style


NEW YORK -- The NBA is an image-driven, hypocritical enterprise. A.C. Green is a cad. Richard Dumas needs our compassion, but Cedric Ceballos is a better basketball player, anyway.

Provided the forum of being "Saturday Night Live" host, Charles Barkley yesterday continued his running monologue, checking diplomacy outside the doors of NBC's studios. At a news conference introducing Barkley as master of ceremonies for Saturday's 19th-season premiere, the Phoenix superstar took time to advance his loose-cannon image.

The random thoughts expressed by Sir Charles involved:

* The NBA -- "They're so concerned about image ... very hypocritical. It's funny, in Philadelphia they didn't serve alcohol in the locker room, but they served it to the fans. That makes me laugh. The NBA does things like say 'Stay in School,' they put the little things on the back of chairs about 'Stay in School' and make us make public-service announcements.

"And they don't ever put money into the educational system to give something back to the community."

* Dumas, the Suns' starting small forward who recently was suspended indefinitely by the league for violating terms of its substance-abuse policy -- "Richard Dumas has more important problems to work out than basketball games. ... He needs to get his life together as a husband and a father."

* How the absence of Dumas will affect Barkley's Phoenix team -- "Cedric Ceballos (injured during the playoffs) is a better basketball player than Richard Dumas. ... If we had a healthy Ceballos, we beat the Bulls in the Finals."

* Green, the L.A. Lakers' free agent who has spurned Phoenix's advances -- "A.C. Green has really ticked me off. We've offered ZTC him great money, wined him and dined him, and I don't think we should kiss anybody's butt."

* The mindset of buddy Michael Jordan, after his father was murdered in North Carolina -- "I think Michael's doing a lot better now. Three or four weeks ago he was really depressed, but I think right now he's starting to come around. I think he's excited for the basketball season to start."

Judging from the tone of the monologue, so is Barkley.

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