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Thursday, October 30, 1997

Barkley stung by criticism over bar fight, hints at retirement

HOUSTON (AP) -- Charles Barkley, saying his young daughter was being harassed by schoolmates over his arrest in Miami, told several Houston reporters Wednesday he is "leaning toward retirement" from basketball.

The Houston Rockets forward, who has missed two consecutive practices, was in Phoenix Wednesday to mull over his future with his wife, Maureen, and daughter, Christiana, according to several reports.

Barkley contacted at least two television stations -- KHOU and KTRK -- and also called the Houston Chronicle.

KHOU said Barkley reported being upset with harassment his daughter was facing at elementary school in Phoenix.

Barkley also said he was upset that the NBA did not rule out suspending him for the Sunday incident in which he was accused of throwing a bar patron through a plate-glass window.

"Right now, I'm leaning toward retirement," the 11-time NBA All-Star told the Houston Chronicle. "If the league is not going to stand by me, then I'll just say thank you very much and move on."

Barkley could not be reached by The Associated Press on Wednesday night.

NBA officials said in a conference call earlier Wednesday that the league would take no action against Barkley until there was some outcome in the Miami case.

Contacted late Wednesday, NBA spokesman Brian McIntyre said he had not heard from Barkley about any retirement.

"Hopefully, this a heat-of-the-moment thought," McIntyre told the AP.

Early last Sunday, Barkley was charged with aggravated battery and resisting arrest after he allegedly threw a bar patron through a window. Barkley told police the 20-year-old man, Jorge Lugo, had thrown a glass of ice on the basketball star and three women sitting with him.

Barkley chased Lugo to the front of the bar, where an off-duty officer tried to intervene. But Barkley picked up Lugo and threw him through the window.

Rockets spokesman Tim Frank said Barkley's absence from practice was excused because of a family emergency.

"He had missed practices because ... he was having a family crisis," Frank said. "When a family's involved, we always consider family as a major part of everybody's life."

The Rockets open their season Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Teammates said they hoped Barkley would join them.

"Everybody's getting ready to go," said Brent Price. "We want all the pieces in place. What's important is that he takes care of the business he has to take care of."

In August 1996, the Phoenix Suns traded Barkley to Houston in a blockbuster deal. Barkley, who is in his 14th NBA season, averaged 19.2 points, 13.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists last season.

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