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He has become what that noted historian Dr. Jerome Holtzman of the Chicago Tribune calls an executive power forward. As such, he has all the perks. And so he steps on the floor and turns it on only when he deems a game worthy of his supreme skills. On all other occasions, Charles spends the night grousing at the officials or, as happened last Sunday, engaging in a childish slapping incident with the Knicks' loutish Charles Oakley.

If I were Rod Thorn, the NBA chief of operations, I would fine Barkley $250,000 or perhaps even more for his silly display. I would probably suspend him for five games, too.

He deliberately got himself tossed out of the game and personally destroyed any entertainment value the game held for a national television audience.

Because of Barkley's millionaire status, the big fine would not be excessive, merely appropriate.

Given his baronial lifestyle, it is probably the only thing that could get Barkley's attention for more than three minutes.

He might even like it. The size of the fine would get him interviews with David Letterman, Jay Leno, Bob Costas, Jude LaCava, Steve Pascente, Bill Denney, Mike Chamberlin, Gil Tyree, Carlos Burgos and even Rush Limbaugh, to talk about the injustice of it all.

Please don't make the argument with me that the refs were wrong for throwing out Barkley. They had nothing to do with it. He knowingly set forth on a course of conduct that left them no alternative.

Because it was alert to the possibility of bad blood between the Knicks and Suns, the NBA assigned referee Jake O'Donnell to the game. O'Donnell is as good at what he does as Barkley and, on top of that, is not constantly contemplating his retirement.

For the second half of that contest, any fans interested in Charles had to be content with a report from the locker room by Ahmad Rashad, certainly the most useless television reporter of the decade.

A few minutes into the half, Rashad confided to the audience that Barkley was relaxing in a hot tub watching the game on television.

Last week, Charles was once again in court defending himself against charges by a New York firefighter that Barkley had slapped him in the face after a game in New Jersey last year.

Charles said the incident was not his fault. They never are his fault. No matter how many times Charles gets involved, nothing is ever to be blamed upon him.

I suppose the incident we all saw with Oakley was not of his own doing, either.
Outside the courtroom last week, Charles entered a new line of defense.
"I blame the media for all this," he told the assembled reporters. "It's because of the attention I get in the media that everyone wants to get famous off me."
All right, Charles, I have a suggestion. Get together with your accountants. I assume you need more than one by this time. Look up your bank balance. When you have the numbers straight in your memory, hold a press conference and blame the media for that, too.

This is all rather sad. Charles can still be the most engaging figure in sports. He may still even be able to lead the Suns to a championship in the NBA this season.

But if he's going to do it, the time to start is now.
The season is getting away from the Suns. Right now they are a terrible team. They are totally selfish and do not deserve to win. The only one playing like the game was designed to be is Mark West, the much-maligned center, who still sacrifices his body every night and day for the Suns.

If the Suns are going to make a move, Charles must lead the charge.
Only if Charles begins to perform up to the top of his game will the other madness stop.

A.C. Green will be there ready and willing to help. He is averaging 16.4 points a game and close to ten rebounds while averaging almost 40 minutes. Green hasn't missed a game all year. But I rarely see him interviewed on television.

Dan Majerle is a man who has become possessed by the three-point shot. He keeps firing them up from farther and farther out on the court and with less and less justification. He is a gunner.

What happened to the Majerle who once played tough defense and was a valuable asset to the team? That Majerle is long gone. What we have left is a one-dimensional player who has lost his way.

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Tom Fitzpatrick