During news conferences in the days leading up to Game
4, Phoenix forward Charles Barkley freely dispensed advice for Bulls guard Michael Jordan, his close friend off the court.
"Michael has to be more like me, let stuff roll off him, go out and have some fun," he said of Jordan, whose celebrated gambling exploits led to a week of silence during the Bulls-Knicks Eastern Conference finals. "He can't please everybody. People in this country like to build you up and tear you down. I tell him, "People who dog you aren't your friends. Just do your own thing.'
"I know I'm not going to spend my life in my house. We play a game, so we should have fun, just like Ali did in boxing. Michael should take his security guard and go out. Hey, be like me. Punch a few guys out. Give up $10,000. It's worth it."
Eighty international media members from 16 countries are attending the Finals.
The countries represented are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and Uruguay.
Phoenix coach Paul Westphal, 42, is trying to become the 11th coach in NBA history to win a title in his first season with the team.
The others: Eddie Gottlieb, Philadelphia Warriors, 1946-47 (NBA's first season); Buddy Jeannette, Baltimore Bullets, 1947-48; John Kundla, Minneapolis Lakers, 1948-49; George Senesky, Philadelphia Warriors, 1955-56; Alex Hannum, Philadelphia 76ers, 1966-67; Bill Sharman, Los Angeles Lakers, 1971-72; Jack Ramsay, Portland Trail Blazers, 1976-77; Paul Westhead, Los Angeles Lakers, 1979-80; Pat Riley, Los Angeles Lakers, 1981-82; and K.C. Jones, Boston Celtics, 1983-84.
Westhead and Riley took over from others during the season.
Lord of the rings
Reserve Bulls forward/center Scott Williams can become the eighth player in NBA history to win three championship rings in his first three years in the league.
Six of the previous seven players were members of the Boston Celtics. The other was on the Minneapolis Lakers.
Jones was a rookie when the Celtics won the first of eight consecutive titles in 1959, and he was with the team throughout that run, which lasted through 1966. Tom Sanders was on the Celtics' championship teams from 1961-66, Gene Guarilia from 1960-63, John Havlicek from 1963-66, Gene Conley from 1959-61 and Larry Siegfried from 1964-66.
Minneapolis' Whitey Skoog was the first of the seven players to win titles in his first three seasons, playing for the Lakers' title winners from 1952-54.
First and last
Phoenix guard Danny Ainge still is having to answer questions about a unique play in Game
3. Bulls forward Scottie Pippen threw an inbounds pass off Ainge's back and layed the ball in late in regulation. Ainge: "That's the first time that has happened to me. And it will be the last time, too."
In 39 previous NBA Finals that stood at 2-1, the team with the two victories won 33 of them.
_ TIMES WIRES