Though Barkley has become more hospitable to fans, he has somehow gotten nastier on the court. Of course, this you already discovered on Day 4 of camp, when Barkley threw 6'7", 240-pound forward Ed Nealy about 10 feet and flattened 6'8", 213-pound forward Kurt Rambis like a tortilla. In fact, Barkley turned so many teammates into floor towels that new Sun coach Paul Westphal had to install the Charles Rule: Anyone lowering his shoulder on a fast break (ahem) gets called for a foul.
Things got worse on Day 5. Trying to score on a fast break, Barkley felt slightly abused by 6'6", 210-pound small forward Cedric Ceballos, so he busted his poundage back upcourt, caught up to Ceballos and nearly decapitated him. And Ceballos was sans ball. Uh, Sheriff? Those are the good guys.
"That's weak, Chuck!" Sun point guard Kevin Johnson screamed at Barkley, the 6'1" KJ's nose to Barkley's chin. "That's bogus!"
Danny Ainge, new to the Suns" back-court, also let Barkley have it: "You didn't get touched! Play the game!"
Ceballos just lay in a pile. Westphal called a timeout to calm everybody down, but KJ blistered Barkley until the scrimmage was over. Unbeknownst to him, KJ, a young man known for his kindness, was entering a dark and dangerous new world: Chuckieville.
"I just didn't appreciate someone trying to hurt someone on our team," KJ said later. "I mean, you've got to draw the tine somewhere."
That, of course, was exactly what Barkley was trying to do: draw the line and see who was crazy enough to cross it.
"I wanted to know how tough Kevin is," Barkley said. "I want to know who I'm going to war with. Kevin has a reputation around the league of being a little soft. I wanted to test him tonight, and he showed me his toughness. I could've hurt Ced if I'd wanted to. I'm an expert at hurting people. But if somebody takes me out, I want lo make sure Kevin will stand up, because I damn sure am going to stand up for him."
One of the reasons the Suns have beaten such hasty retreats from the playoffs in recent seasons is that they seem to have been born without the necessary revenge genes. Big men routinely bushwhacked KJ when he invaded the lane but suffered no paybacks. Two years ago KJ lit up Philadelphia at home. So when the Suns went to Philly later that season and KJ looked to be unguardable again, Barkley put a vicious body slam on him—and KJ didn't even have the basketball. (Warning: This habit may be unbreakable.) No Sun stood up to Barkley, and KJ never ventured into the paint again. The Sixers won.
"I guarantee you," Barkley says. "Nothing like that will happen again."