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Teammates support Barkley

Charles Barkley got support and some advice from his Rockets teammates Thursday as they prepared to start the season without the 11-time NBA All-Star.

While Barkley was home in Phoenix considering retirement over fallout from his arrest after a barroom incident in Orlando last weekend, the Rockets went through their final workout before tonight's opener at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Barkley was charged with aggravated battery and resisting arrest after the early Sunday incident. Police said Barkley threw a bar patron, Jorge Lugo, through a window. Barkley said Lugo threw a glass of ice on him and three people with him.

"Even if you are right in that situation it's not a wise decision," center Hakeem Olajuwon said. "Whether he (Barkley) was right or wrong, that is not the question. The reality is that you don't know who you are dealing with outside. The guy can pull a gun and shoot him. That's the reality of it."

"Charles likes to go out and mingle, so he does it and sometimes he gets in trouble," guard Mario Elie said. "Sometimes that happens if you've got a big name. Charles took this time off to realize he made a mistake and he had to deal with it."

Kevin Willis will start in Barkley's forward spot against Cleveland, but coach Rudy Tomjanovich anticipates Barkley will return.

"My gut feeling is that he'll deal with the things he has to deal with and he'll be back," Tomjanovich said. "You wish these things wouldn't happen, but they do. We've had to deal with a lot of different situations."

If Barkley does return, he won't be playing in the Summit. Compaq Computer Co. will pay $5.4-million over six years for the right to call the arena the Compaq Center.

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