"Laced," Barkley says. "Of course they're laced. You get as big as me, Nike delivers the shoes already laced for you."
Time for the nice little test.
Barkley plays three minutes. He has no points, one rebound. Trying to go back up with that rebound, he is thrown hard to the floor by Knicks forward Charles Oakley. Barkley jumps up to speak of his displeasure. Oakley swings. Barkley swings. The fight makes highlight shows across the country in the midst of the World Series and the full fall football schedule. Fight in a preseason game. Both players are ejected.
Less than five minutes later, Willis plants an elbow in the side of New York center Patrick Ewing. They push and shove and shout and are ejected as well. A 24-minute power failure later in the first quarter further slows the proceedings, which plod along to a dull 79-75 win by the Knicks. The Rockets finish the preseason 4-4.
The idea was to take a look at the three rookie point guards on the roster—Emanual Davis, Randy Livingston and Matt Maloney—and see if any of them can fill the hole left by Price's injury. That, too, was lost in the mishmash of ejections. Will the Rockets have to deal again for a point guard this week? Will they look for a Spud Webb, or for a Doc Rivers to come out of retirement? Will the rookies do the job?
"Very bizarre," Tomjanovich mutters. He stands behind a podium in a press conference area in the concrete underbelly of the Summit. He looks as if he is a candidate for office from some fringe party. He is talking to five or six rows of unoccupied folding chairs. Only three reporters are present.
"It's O.K. to let the media in," Rudy T tells media services coordinator Angela Blakeney.
"I told them," she replies. "They're all waiting for the locker room to open."
They're waiting to talk to Barkley.
"That's the fastest I've ever been ejected," Barkley says. "I wasn't even around long enough to piss anyone off." He is surrounded. Television broadcasters kneel at his feet. A reporter from the Houston Chronicle stands inside his locker. The crowd is maybe 30 people, maybe more. Those at the edges strain to hear Barkley speak.