THE NBA / MARK HEISLER : Barkley Throws the Book at 76ers
The season is six weeks along and Charles Barkley hasn’t led off this column yet?
As opponents could tell you, there’s no getting around this guy.
Barkley’s book, “Outrageous,” will soon be released. It was originally scheduled for January, after the Christmas rush, suggesting that publisher Simon & Schuster didn’t realize what it had on its hands.
In publishing, as in basketball, Barkley suffers from the fact that he is not a Knick nor a Laker nor Michael Jordan.
There was also the common suspicion about this project, voiced to Barkley by USA Today’s Pete Vecsey:
“What could you possibly say that you haven’t blurted out already?”
On 76er teammate Hersey Hawkins: “He could score 35 points a night if he wanted to, but for all his talent, he’s just not aggressive. He doesn’t grab the game by the throat like he should.”
On teammate Charles Shackleford: “He was basically thrown away by the Nets--by the Nets!--after just two years. If the Nets couldn’t use him, it’s hard to see how he can be our starting center.”
On teammate Manute Bol: “We traded a first-round draft choice for a 28-year-old fly swatter who can only score 1.9 points a game. Hey, my grandmother could score two points a game if she wasn’t double-teamed.”
On owner Harold Katz: “One of our problems is that Harold enjoys making deals and yet he knows as much basketball as any fan who sits around and watches games all the time--not much.”
Barkley also revealed that he was a petty thief as a youngster, smoked marijuana and accepted $20,000 from agents while at Auburn.
HOW COULD HE TOP THAT?
The Philadelphia Inquirer ran excerpts from the book last week, resulting in the predictable hue and cry.
WIP radio talk show host Bill Campbell was in the process of hammering Barkley--when Barkley called in.
Barkley claimed he had been misquoted by co-author Roy Johnson and said he hadn’t read the galley proofs he received a month ago.
He then instructed his agent to stop the book, becoming the first man in history to disavow his own autobiography.
Simon & Schuster, noting it has a contract, said the book is still coming out--and moved up the release date.
Conclusion I: This project was considered a dog in the publishing biz but Charles might have hit on the one way to make it sell.
Conclusion II: Charles has been trying to get off the sinking 76er ship without success but he may have hit on the one way to force Katz to trade him.
WASTED DAYS AND WASTED NIGHTS
This segment was going to be titled “Clippers East” but the Clippers seem to have found something--right now, as people keep noting.
This is about the Nets, who have also managed to turn a great deal of talent into 20-some victories annually.
Currently, Derrick Coleman, Kenny Anderson, Sam Bowie and Co. are waiting to see how long Coach Bill Fitch lasts.
Insiders say that unless the bottom falls out--always a possibility--Fitch may hang on the entire season.
Co-owner Joe Taub and Fitch have argued, first over the drafting of Anderson, second over waiving two veterans without Fitch’s knowledge to make room for Anderson’s megasalary.
Taub yearns to end the dialogue decisively--by terminating Fitch.
However, Taub has his heart set on Rick Pitino, the former Knick coach, now at Kentucky in the NCAA, as his successor.
Pitino says he isn’t coming. Taub won’t take no for an answer for a while.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch . . .
“It’s not something openly discussed, like, ‘Hey fellas, I think I’m out of here,’ but it’s undeniably present,” said Bowie.
“Is it distracting? Yes.”
Coleman, doing what he can to get the situation resolved, blasted Fitch, who tried to hold him out of the Laker game with a sprained ankle, then played him late.
Quoth Derrick: “You call that coaching?”
Alongside the miracle Laker winning streak, you can place the surprising Clipper burst.
It started after that home loss to the Washington Bullets, at a time when management was sharpening the guillotine for Coach Mike Schuler.
“The Clippers are playing very well right now,” Golden State’s Coach Don Nelson said last week, after the Clippers had taken an 18-point lead on his team in his building.
“They’re very powerful up front and when you look at their starting lineup, along with three nice backups, they’re legitimately eight deep. They’re a playoff team at this point.”
Note the qualifiers, “right now” and, “at this point.”
The Clippers haven’t had a trip longer than two games and won’t until January--when they’ll be home for a total of three games. Then everyone will know what’s happening.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO. . .
The Portland Trail Blazers?
Despite a boatload of talent and everyone else’s confidence in them, Blazer management frets at the early-season funk.
Coach Rick Adelman had said his biggest concern was putting last spring’s upending by the Lakers behind them.
Now he has more concerns.
Terry Porter, thought to be on the verge of becoming one of the game’s top point guards, is down two assists a game. On a team averaging 110 points, his 6.0 average doesn’t get him into the league’s top 20 playmakers. His shooting has fallen from 52% to 44%.
Kevin Duckworth’s scoring average has fallen from 16 to 10.
Danny Ainge is down from 47% to 38%.
Without Porter and Ainge keeping defenses honest from the outside, the Blazers have reverted to their mediocre old days, when everything came from sheer athleticism.
“We’ve talked about (getting over the Laker defeat),” Blazer Vice President Bucky Buckwalter says.
“It was a disappointment. . . . We’re an emotional, athletic team and they all have to be playing in sync. . . . I don’t know if it’s in the back of our collective minds. If it is, you’ve just got to play through it.”
FACES AND FIGURES
Just like hockey: Rony Seikaly’s one-game suspension after his wrestling match with Orlando’s Greg Kite cost him $24,390. Seikaly also picked up the $500 tabs for Heat teammates Steve Smith and Willie Burton, who left the bench to rush to his aid. . . . Heat guard Glen Rice, furious that no one else left the bench, railed in the dressing room at halftime: “If we have (cowards) in this room, they don’t need to bother to come out and play the second half!” The Heat lost, 105-99. . . . Postscript: Seikaly trained last summer with boxing’s Angelo Dundee but didn’t land a punch against Kite, who isn’t what you’d call a moving target.
Orlando General Manager Pat Williams, an expert at getting the last word, after a protracted negotiation with Fred Slaughter to end the holdout of No. 1 pick Brian Williams: “What do you have when you’ve got an agent buried up to his neck in sand? Not enough sand.” . . . Orlando’s Scott Skiles of LaPorte, Ind., on attending Michigan State rather than Indiana: “If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that question . . . Wait a minute, I do have a dollar for every time.” Skiles makes $2.1 million a season.
Blazer scout Brad Greenberg is getting the credit for unearthing Robert Pack. A Blazer source says it really belongs to USC Coach George Raveling, who called up and recommended his former player. . . . Chicago’s newly svelte Stacey King, now down to 10% body fat: “Last year I was at 17-18% body fat. I felt like I had another person in my shorts.” . . . King has replaced Will Perdue, in current disfavor, as No. 2 center. After Perdue nailed a recent three-pointer, Coach Phil Jackson said: “It was no surprise. We know Will shoots better from 20 feet than he shoots from two.”
More from the mouth of South Florida: Seikaly, after Boston’s Robert Parish had scored 31 points on him, running the pick-and-roll with Larry Bird: “Parish and Bird know each other better then they know their girlfriends and wives.” . . . Eddie Johnson after Seattle had barely beaten one of Washington Coach Wes Unseld’s no-name lineups including Greg Foster, Larry Stewart, Charles Jones and A.J. English: “That was to their advantage. We didn’t know who they were. We didn’t know how to guard them.” . . . Boston’s Kevin McHale, on returning too soon from ankle surgery: “I was a bitch, for a one-legged guy.”
Few trades were more traumatic than Mitch Richmond’s by the close-knit Warriors. Richmond’s buddies, Chris Mullin and Rod Higgins, still drive 80 miles to attend some of his games in Sacramento. On his return to Golden State, Richmond was given a 40-second standing ovation, with Billy Owens, acquired by the Warriors in the deal, joining in the applause. Richmond then scored 29 points with seven assists. Owens had 17 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. “I know it’s a good trade for us,” said Warrior Coach Nelson, who made it. “Anybody who thinks it isn’t, I think in two years they’ll look back and say they were wrong.”
Latest tale of Piston woe: At 9-13, their start was their worst in 10 seasons. Said Coach Chuck Daly after Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars had combined for 62 of the team’s 96 points in a loss to the Clippers: “I guess that’s the way we’re going to go now. We have to. We have no inside game. We’re getting no bench play. None. Zero.” The Piston reserves were outscored by the Clipper subs, 45-5. . . . Mark Aguirre to former teammate James (Bhudda) Edwards, who has an inside game: “We need you Bhudda. We need you back.” And Piston jester John Salley to newly acquired Orlando Woolridge: “There is a D in Woolridge but it’s silent.”