WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON - Former NBA great Charles Barkley hinted last night that he might be willing to come out of retirement next season and play for the Washington Wizards.
Speaking at halftime of an NBA telecast on TNT, Barkley, who retired last season with the Houston Rockets, said he was considering leaving broadcasting and returning to the court, possibly in Washington, provided he can get back into playing shape.
"If I get myself in great shape and I feel good physically, I am going to play next year - but only if I can help a team," said Barkley, 38, who played 16 seasons with Philadelphia, Phoenix and Houston. "Right now I am a long way from that decision. Obviously, I have to lose another 30 pounds, and if my knee feels stronger I am going to play."
Barkley's comments came after Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly reported in this week's issue that a source close to Barkley and Wizards president of basketball operations Michael Jordan said that Jordan, 38, was "90 percent committed" to returning next season and would play with Barkley, his longtime friend, in Washington next season.
Jordan and Barkley, who is an NBA studio analyst for Turner Sports, reportedly have been working out at a health club near Barkley's home in Scottsdale, Ariz., supposedly toward a goal of coming back to the NBA, though Jordan has said that he was exercising - as much as six times a week - to lose weight.
When he retired before the abbreviated 1999 season, Jordan, who bought an estimated 5-10 percent of the Wizards last January when he became team president, said he was "99.9 percent certain" that he would never return to the game, but left the 00.1 percent open to cover a change of heart. Under league rules, Jordan would have to sell his team holdings to return to the court.
Jordan could not be reached for comment, but a team spokesman who spoke with him yesterday denied the SI story.
"As he has repeatedly said, time and again, he has absolutely no plans to return," said Wizards spokesman Matt Williams. "He'll never say never, but he has no plans."