Tom Chambers turns 34 on Monday. The four-time all-star should be enjoying the golden years. But as his career winds down, so does his playing time.
And his frustration rises.
Charles Barkley's arrival made it a season of uncertainty for the Phoenix center-forward who had been an outstanding scorer since he joined the NBA in 1981. He said he bears no animosity toward Barkley or Suns coach Paul Westphal, but simply wants to be on the court more. He wonders about his future.
"It is hard. It has been hard and it's been harder lately because I think I want this more than anybody on the team," he said before Friday night's Game 5 of the NBA Finals. "This may be my last opportunity, and when I get a chance to play, I'm playing like it is my last opportunity.
"I haven't heard anything from anybody. We'll just have to see what happens when the season's over."
Chambers has 18,628 regular-season points. He was the most valuable player in the 1987 All-Star game. But he played just three minutes against the Chicago Bulls in the Finals opener _ the last two of the first quarter and the first of the second.
"I've had to put up with it all season long," he said. "I love Paul to death, but he plays who he sees fit and at times it's me and at times it's not, and it's not for me to really question that."
Westphal focuses on matchups and used Chambers more in the next three games _ an average of 25.3 minutes that produced 28 points.
The playoffs continued his diminished regular-season role. Although he was in 73 games, he was reduced to lows for his 12-year NBA career in minutes, points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. His 12.2-point average was more than four points less than his previous low and reduced his career average to 20.
Chambers said he was happy with the team's success during the regular season, but his situation became tougher in the playoffs.
"I think that Paul doesn't have the utmost confidence in me as a rebounder and as a defensive player," he said. "I think that's what he feels needs to be on the floor in the playoffs."
Chambers said it's tough preparing for a game when he doesn't know what his role will be.