Barkley may not be there to watch sickly Suns set

It's bad enough that the Phoenix Suns are playing so poorly, losing four straight games and five in their past seven. But the teams they are losing to don't make the future brighter for coach Paul Westphal.

Over the past week, the Suns have lost twice to the Los Angeles Clippers and once at home to Minnesota -- the Timberwolves' first win in Phoenix after 25 straight losses. The Suns were 13-17 going into last night's game against the Golden State Warriors, and going nowhere fast.


"It sounds crazy, but so many people are turning against us, that only makes it twice as much fun to turn it around," Westphal said. "There are always people who like to see failure. They really enjoy that. Those people are being identified now, and that makes it all the more fun to watch."

If Westphal is lucky enough to survive the stretch, he may be forced to watch without Charles Barkley. Although team president Jerry Colangelo is denying it, the rumors are that Barkley is on the verge of being traded to either the New York Knicks or the Los Angeles Clippers, better known to Barkley as "the Paper Clips."


It's clear where Barkley doesn't want to go.

"I like Phoenix. I enjoy playing here. But I'm not going to a bad team and play," said Barkley, who has missed two straight games after getting a toe nail removed. "I always feel I'm the one holding the cards. If I get traded, I'm going to a team that's got a chance to win a championship."

How about the Knicks, who are said to be shopping Charles Oakley and Hubert Davis?

"New York would be good," Barkley said. "I want to play for a good team, and, right now obviously, things are in disarray around here. If everybody gets healthy, we'll still be a formidable team. But that's a big if around here."

Snow way

Snow stories around the league:

* Terence Mullin, younger brother of the Golden State Warriors' Chris Mullin, got snowed in more ways than one after getting stuck in his Brooklyn, N.Y., home. "His door was iced in, and he lives on the second floor," Chris Mullin said. "He threw money out [the window] to some kids to shovel him out. They took the money and booked on him."

* New York Knicks forward Charles Smith was approached by four teen-agers as he left a Manhattan convenience store during Sunday's storm.


"Give us a ride," the kids said.

"Grab my bumper," Smith responded.

With the kids attached to his Ford Bronco, Smith headed up Broadway. About a block after the kids jumped off, Smith was stopped by a police officer.

"Best ticket I ever got," he said.

Around the league

Del Harris is attempting to lure Magic Johnson back to the struggling Los Angeles Lakers, but it won't happen. "I don't know how to come back with a team like this," Johnson said. "I'd be fighting with somebody out here." . . . Seattle SuperSonics guard Gary Payton, in the last year of his contract, is eyeing Miami as a future home. "I would love playing for [Pat] Riley," Payton said. "I've got tremendous respect for him." . . .


After coming off the bench for 357 straight games, Charlotte Hornets guard Dell Curry has started the past two games -- and wants to keep it that way. "I get a lot looser and into the game quicker," said Curry, who averaged 24.0 points in the two games. "I get better looks with Larry [Johnson] and Kendall [Gill]." . . . Sam Bowie has opted to stay retired, turning down offers from the Chicago Bulls and the Lakers to return. . . .

Denver Nuggets guard Reggie Williams, who was on the injured list for 16 games with a stress fracture in his left leg, is having trouble getting off the bench. He played 12 minutes against the Vancouver Grizzlies Wednesday. "I've never seen a player who is not disappointed by not playing," the former Dunbar star said. . . . The fan in Vancouver who won $50,000 by hitting a half-court shot on Wednesday said he had not touched a basketball in two years. . . .

New nickname for Warriors rookie Joe Smith -- Simba (after the character in "The Lion King"). "We were saying he has the heart of a lion, and it just caught on," teammate Jon Barry said.

Quotes of the week

* From Miami Heat center Alonzo Mourning, who, after missing 12 games, returned on Saturday and scored 38 points against Dikembe Mutombo, a former teammate at Georgetown: "I know Dikembe's shots and his moves. But you know what? He knows my shots. He just can't stop me."

* And from ever-quotable Clippers forward Brian Williams, on a promotion by the Grizzlies during which 18 women had their hair clipped, a la Bryant Reeves, to sit courtside at a game: "I think it's safe to say that might be the worst promotion ever. What you get in return is 48 minutes [of basketball], and then you've got six months of hell growing your hair back."