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Court jester for game's kings Barkley: The veteran's game is no joke, but his personality is, which is a welcome relief to his hard-working Dream Team teammates.


CHICAGO -- Charles Barkley considers himself a halfway decent golfer. And David Robinson, according to Barkley, is not. Which is why Barkley yesterday was in a state of shock -- or at least doing a pretty good job acting the role -- as he described the golf outing the two had the previous day.

"David Robinson was good on the golf course, which only lets you know that a broken clock is right twice a day," Barkley said, shaking his head. "I lost to David Robinson. It's like me beating [PGA golfer] Phil Mickelson on the golf course. That happens maybe once in a lifetime."

At the time Barkley played on the original Dream Team in 1992, he was considered one of basketball's best power forwards (even though he stands 6 feet 5). Four years later, Barkley will be the first to admit that, at 33, his skills have diminished ("Over the hill? I'm not hinting at it, I am"). He'll tell you that a great career is soon coming to a close. But that's not to say Barkley does not have a role with this team.

Barkley's job here, aside from his on-the-court appearances, is to keep the team loose and laughing over the next five weeks. And the player who this week has drawn more media attention that anyone else on this team of stars so far is doing a pretty good job.

"He's the jokester and the prankster and he's keeping all of us going," said Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller. "It's good to have somebody, after a hard practice like we had, get on the bus and keep everyone laughing and having a good time. You want to work hard, but you also want to have a good time doing it."

And no one is having a better time than Barkley, voted once again to the league's all-interview team. Barkley -- who yesterday mentioned God and quoted rapper Tupac Shakur in the same breath -- has no trouble in filling up a notebook on topics such as:

His political affiliation: "I don't think it matters. I'm a Republican, but they have no chance. I'd vote for Bob Dole, too. But I don't think it'll do any good."

On playing another sport: "I'm not going to do anything. I'm just going to hang around and be a black multimillionaire."

On playing well at the Olympics: "I don't worry about that, only God can judge me. Like Tupac said, all you others can just stay out of my business."

On being over the hill: "I know I'm slowing down. But I'm still better than most of them."

Indeed he is, which is why so many teams are clamoring for his services for next season. New York, Chicago, Indiana and Houston all have been mentioned as possible homes for Barkley. As long as a move involves going to a winning team, Barkley is all for it.

"Phoenix is a great place and I've enjoyed my time there," Barkley said of the Suns. "I just told them if they're going to shop me and expect me to come back, it's not going to happen.

"They should not have handled it like a public auction, trying to get the highest bid," Barkley added. "It's like the old days when they sold slaves -- take the highest bid, and then if they didn't get enough money they'd sit you back up there. I'm not part of that philosophy."

Barkley, who was traded to the Suns just before the 1992 Olympics, said that the Suns had the potential to be a great team had they not given up on key players.

"I'm disappointed they traded my guys -- Mark West, [Cedric] Ceballos, [Dan] Majerle. They let [Danny] Ainge go. That's my only regret. We had a great group of guys my first year there."

And it was a group that had a chance at winning, which is all Barkley wants with his new team. For a player who already has an Olympic gold medal, league MVP award and been a 10-time All-Star, a championship ring is one of the few goals that has eluded him.

"I just want to play on a team that appreciates me and wants me," Barkley said. "Chicago is ideal, Houston is ideal. So are New York and Indiana. You play with very good players, you have a chance. All the world owes you is an opportunity."

When the opportunity to play for the Olympic team was presented to Barkley, he accepted. Not among the original 10 players named, Barkley didn't expect to get one of the final two spots.

"I was surprised, but honored they came back and asked me again," Barkley said.

Asked if his role was to liven up a bunch that, for the most part, can be rather drab, Barkley said: "Let's hope so. I hope they're not expecting me to play well."

Asked later by a television reporter from Mexico whether the Dream Team can be beaten, Barkley looked just as stunned as when he spoke about Robinson beating him in golf.

"It can't happen, my man. It can't happen," Barkley said. "I don't know if this is the best team ever. But it's close."

Dream exhibitions

Date .. Opponent .. .. .. Time

Sat. .. U.S. Under-22 ... 4 p.m.

Sun. .. Brazil . .. .. .. 4 p.m.

Wed. .. China .. .. .. .. 8 p.m.

7/12 .. Australia . .. .. 8 p.m.

.. Greece . .. .. .. Noon

Pub Date: 7/04/96

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