Originally created 12/03/99

Barkley fined by league

Charles Barkley was fined $20,000 by the NBA on Thursday for criticizing an official after the Houston Rockets' double-overtime loss to Phoenix the previous night.

Barkley made derogatory remarks about veteran Mike Mathis after Houston's 128-122 defeat.

"We lost the game because of one reason -- Mike Mathis," the All-Star forward said. "I ain't going to say nothing else. He's a bad official."

Barkley, called for a foul while going for a rebound after teammate Kelvin Cato missed a free throw with 3.5 seconds left in the first overtime, has a history of run-ins with Mathis, one of seven officials who resigned following tax charges last year.

"He's been bad the whole time I've been in the league," Barkley said. "He cost us the game, and I hate that he's back in the league."

Barkley had already been fined $5,000 and suspended without pay for one game this season after getting into a fight with Shaquille O'Neal.

The Rockets played the Clippers at Los Angeles Thursday night.

SPURS: Just 3 months after undergoing a kidney transplant, Sean Elliott believes there's an 80 percent chance he'll return to San Antonio this season.

"For this (season), it's 80-20," Elliott said Thursday night as the Spurs opened a four-game road trip against the New Jersey Nets. "I think it would be a great statement for a lot of people if I could come back and play professional basketball.'

Elliott received a kidney from his brother, Noel, in a transplant operation in mid-August. He is currently working as a color commentator on the team's broadcasts and has been cleared by doctors to run and get in shape.

Elliott's recovery has progressed so well that he jumped into a five-on-five scrimmage Monday in San Antonio before the team's trainers and strength coaches told him it probably wasn't the best idea.

"I was forcing the issue a little bit because I have been cleared for some friendly contact," Elliott said. "They were trying to hold me back, which is understandable, but at the same time I know my body -- so I know I can get out there and mix it up a little bit without being concerned about it."

Elliott needed the transplant because of a condition known as focal segmental glomerular sclerosis, an illness that prevents the kidneys from properly filtering waste from the blood.

Without the transplant, Elliott was weeks away from having to undergo dialysis.

Spurs coach and general manager Gregg Popovich has vowed to make Elliott seek the advice and opinions of several doctors before he would allow a comeback, and Elliott expects the team to be extremely cautious about clearing him to play.

"He just got his life back, and taking a chance with that kind of scares me," Popovich said.

Spurs point guard Avery Johnson said Elliott's 80-20 forecast was probably too optimistic, a feeling shared by his teammates.

Elliott, however, sounds pretty certain that he'll be back within a couple of months.

"We pretty much have (a target date for a comeback) set, but it's guarded by secrecy," Elliott said. "A lot of people have a lot of preconceived notions about my recovery and the perils of what I was going through, and that hasn't left people. A lot of people still think if I take a bump or a fall then something bad is going to happen, and that's not the case."


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