The Associated Press
PHOENIX Ä Charles Barkley skipped practice yesterday morning because of soreness in his left knee but said the problem wasn't serious.
Barkley sprained a ligament early in the Phoenix Suns' 103-92 win over the Charlotte Hornets the day before. He continued playing and even asked to go back into the game in the fourth quarter, but came out when fluid began to build up.
Team doctor Richard Emerson re-examined the joint yesterday and confirmed his previous diagnosis of a mildly sprained medial collateral ligament. The swelling subsided overnight, Barkley said.
Emerson said Barkley's condition was day-to-day and cleared him to accompany the team today on a two-game road trip to Los Angeles.
Suns coach Paul Westphal says Barkley might sit out tonight's game against the Clippers as a precaution.
''I don't care if it's the Orlando Magic if he's questionable,'' Westphal said. ''No regular-season game is worth risking his long-term health.''
Barkley missed the first 11 games this season because of an abdominal strain. Since then, he has averaged 21.4 points and 10.4 rebounds, including 36 and 12 in three games earlier this month to win the NBA's player of the week designation.
He said he had never had a left-knee problem except for tendinitis.
''Right when the game first started, I took an awkward step coming out of the air; I landed awkward,'' Barkley said.
''It's going to be sore for a couple of days,'' Barkley went on. ''I might not play tomorrow because it's the Clippers, but I think everything is all right.''
Injuries, including a season-ending ligament tear by Danny Manning three weeks ago, have forced Westphal to use 19 different starting lineups. But the Suns (42-13) have stayed even with Orlando for the league's best record.
''We've had players hurt all year Ä Charles, KJ (Kevin Johnson), and now Manning Ä and we've continued to win. That shows a lot about our character,'' said Dan Majerle, who was moved from guard to small forward to replace Manning.
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