Barkley Is at His Best When They're Scavenging for a Story

Charles Barkley had been in a slump in recent weeks, but the Phoenix Sun veteran snapped out of it Saturday night, getting 34 points and 18 rebounds in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

Wrote David Casstevens of the Arizona Republic: "Then, he took off on the media, who he seemed to think looked like pallbearers, gathered around his locker.

" 'They're circling the wagons for the funeral,' Barkley said, mixing his metaphors. At one point, he raised his finger and twirled it in a circle, indicating the flight of vultures. It was nice to have him back."

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Trivia time: Who is the only UCLA basketball player who played on NBA, NCAA and state high school championship teams?

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Coach in mourning: The trade that sent Alonzo Mourning from the Charlotte Hornets to the Miami Heat still rankles Charlotte Coach Allan Bristow.

"I can't talk about it anymore," he told Jackie MacMullan of the Boston Globe. "Because when I do, I get angry. It ruins my day."

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Oh, happy day: Syracuse University mascot Otto the Orange, in danger of being squeezed out by a wolf, has been saved by Chancellor Kenneth Shaw.

Shaw rejected a committee's recommendation to adopt the wolf as the new mascot, while keeping orange as the official color.

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Long-range advice: Kevin McHale, Minnesota vice president of basketball operations, on the Timberwolves' making one of 19 three-point attempts against Orlando on Nov. 24:

"If I'm playing golf and I hit 18 drives into the woods, I probably put my driver in the bag."

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Tattoo trip: Amy Shipley of the Miami Herald describes the tattoo on Miami Heat center LeRon Ellis' right arm as a sharp-angled mess of lines.

Said Ellis: "It's a tribal design, but it doesn't mean anything. When I got it, [the artist] said, 'You had such good arm space that I just kept going.' "

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Cruel: On Philadelphia talk radio, 7-foot-6 center Shawn Bradley, recently traded to the New Jersey Nets, has been called "Missionary Impossible" and the "The Great White Nope."

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Trivia answer: Lucius Allen, Milwaukee Bucks, 1971; UCLA, 1967-68, and Wyandotte High, Kansas City, Mo., 1965.

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Quotebook: Detroit Piston Coach Doug Collins on his NBA playing career: "I shot so much I'd be in and out of a slump in the same game."

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