The Sixers eventually strung together 12 consecutive wins before losing a pair of heartbreakers at the end of last week, just before the All-Star break. They would like to get some new momentum started when they host New Jersey tonight at the Spectrum.
"We play New Jersey and Seattle (Friday) at home this week," Barkley said. "Those are 'must' games for us before we go to the West Coast."
Ah, yes, the West Coast. The Sixers play five games in seven nights out there, beginning Sunday in Portland. From there, it's Utah on Monday, Golden State Wednesday, the Los Angeles Lakers Friday and Phoenix Saturday. Murderers' row.
The last time the Sixers went west, they finished 2-5 on an extended trip through Colorado, Washington, California and Texas at the end of December.
"I think we're better prepared for the west this time," Gminski said. ''The last time we went out there, we were still trying to learn what kind of team we were."
The Sixers have discovered, among other things, that they can be a contender, provided Barkley is in one piece. He has been hindered for the past three weeks by a lingering groin injury, an injury he says only can be cured by rest.
Yesterday, at the end of an intrasquad scrimmage, Barkley got into a brief scuffle with teammate Bob Thornton. Both players dismissed the incident as the result "of hard play," and there were no bitter feelings in the locker room.
Besides, Barkley had to get dressed for a taping of "Late Night with David Letterman," which aired last night. It was Barkley's second appearance on Letterman. He also has plans to appear on Arsenio Hall's show in the near future.
It must be nice to be a stand-up comedian.