BARCELONA ’92 OLYMPICS : Barkley Spoils His Best Shots by Taking the Worst One of All : Basketball: He leads U.S. with 24 points but throws a flagrant elbow that mars 116-48 rout of Angola.
They came to see a dream but they got the dark side of the force, too.
Proving he can embarrass himself in any context, Charles Barkley put on a clinic in bad manners, highlighted by a technical foul for elbowing an Angola player, causing fans in the Palau d’Esports to whistle in derision.
That barely slowed Barkley, who scored a game-high 24 points, or the Dream Team, which crunched Angola, 116-48, Sunday in its Olympic debut.
However, it did spark a one-sided post-game debate.
On one side, you had Barkley.
On the other, everyone else.
Warming up shortly after entering the game, Barkley pushed David Dias, an Angolan who is about as big around as his thigh. Several minutes later, after making a layup, Barkley turned and elbowed Herlander Coimbra in the chest as he ran back upcourt.
The 6-foot-6, 176-pound Coimbra has a chest barely big enough to accommodate Barkley’s elbow but Charles called it self-defense.
“He hit me, I hit him,” Barkley said. “You guys wouldn’t understand. It’s a ghetto thing.”
Lots of people didn’t understand, many of them his teammates.
“If Charles would quit doing what he’s doing, we’d get the cheers instead of the whistles,” Michael Jordan said.
“There just wasn’t any place for it. We were dominating the game. It could cause mixed feelings about the United States. There’s already some ill feeling toward us. That didn’t help the cause.”
Said David Robinson, laughing: “Don’t ask me about anything Charles does. Charles is Charles. I can’t speak for Charles.
“I think it’s important for us to be very cordial and very gracious. Of course, that stuff doesn’t look gracious, but it’s a part of basketball. And like it or not, it’s a part of Charles.
“I can’t control Charles. I haven’t seen a person yet who can.”
If his peers talked to him?
“You don’t think his peers have been saying something to him?” Robinson asked, laughing. " . . . He’s going to hit people. You know, the cheap shots, that’s a part of the game. He does it all the time. A lot of it doesn’t get called and doesn’t get caught, but he does it all the time.
“The one today, we disapprove of that. That was uncalled for, right out in the middle. . . . That was very bad for us today. I mean, image-wise it was a tough one. But we love Charles.”
They did, however, tell the man they loved at halftime, in gentle terms, not to push everyone who jostles him.
Barkley went the whole second half without incident, though he did carp at an official who didn’t add on a foul while he was making a layup.
At that point the United States led, 92-34.
“I don’t keep up with the score,” Barkley said. “I just play.”
The Angolans couldn’t keep up with the score, either. They took a 2-1 lead and managed ties at 5-5 and 7-7 but had a bad spell. Their bad spell was also known as the first half.
The Americans hit them with a 31-0 run, which might have lasted forever but Barkley elbowed Coimbra, who made a free throw.
The United States then went on another 15-0 run, making it 46-1 altogether, increasing its lead to 53-8.
The Angolans, small (no starter over 6-7) and skinny (one player on the roster as heavy as Magic Johnson), were game but unpolished. They especially favored three-point shots, backing up to fire from 25 feet if U.S. defenders had them covered at 20.
Of the Angolans’ first 18 shots, 12 were three-pointers, of which they sank one.
By game’s end, they had taken 30 shots from inside the line, 38 from outside.
Coimbra said he disapproved of Barkley’s play (“The sport is not violence”), but talked to him outside the dressing room afterward and asked him to pose with him for a picture. Barkley agreed readily.
Coimbra also said Barkley is one of his favorite players.
Unrepentant, at least for the record, Barkley said this was a good warm-up for tonight’s game against Croatia.
“They’ve got three NBA players and a couple guys they think should be in the NBA,” he said. “I think they’re a good team.”
Since Barkley had been joking about the opposition a day earlier, he was asked if he really believed that.
“I believe anything I say,” he said.
Scottie Pippen, who had five of the U.S. team’s 30 steals, couldn’t believe it when he heard Angola Coach Victorino Cunha say that the U.S. team doesn’t play defense, but Cunha didn’t back down. “It’s true,” Cunha shot back, turning to follow the Chicago Bulls’ forward. “They play defense in college, not in the NBA. Defense means stopping your man from driving to the basket and blocking the passing lanes. You don’t play defense.”