Barkley excited to show new golf game

RENO, Nev. -- Charles Barkley says he is still not gambling but might again someday.

The NBA Hall of Famer and TNT analyst also said he's still drinking, but not drinking and driving, since a DUI arrest on New Year's Eve.

And Barkley can't wait to get to Lake Tahoe in July to show off his newly retooled golf game.

In a conference call to promote his appearance at the 20th annual American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, Barkley said his DUI arrest after leaving a nightclub near Scottsdale, Ariz., turned out to be a "good thing." He pleaded guilty, served three days in jail, paid $2,000 in fines and attended an alcohol treatment program.

Barkley said it taught him it is "stupid of you to drink and drive." He told himself, "You can't do that again, that's unacceptable."

"You think about it and I've been in the NBA since 1984. ... 25 years. So let's say just going out to dinner or going out with your friends probably 100 times, 200 times a year, I've had something to drink and driven. So to never hurt myself or anybody and never get a DUI, I was very lucky," he said.

Barkley said he continues to drink but does not drive.

He said he hasn't gambled.

"I like to drink. ... I haven't missed the gambling to be honest with you. I needed to take a break from gambling because I was losing," he said.

"Nobody ever complains about gambling when you're winning. I've never heard a guy say, 'Hey, I'm winning too much money, I'm going to quit gambling.' But my gambling had gotten to be a problem. I said I was going to take some time off," he said.

Barkley said on the air during the NBA playoffs last June he wasn't going to gamble for "the next year or two" after he was sued by a Las Vegas Strip casino for failing to pay $400,000 in gambling markers, or loans. He repaid his debt to the Wynn Las Vegas casino along with a $40,000 district attorney's fee.

Barkley said he has missed making bets during football season and likely would gamble again someday.

"I'm going to start gambling again whenever I get ready, to be honest with you. ... I like to gamble," he said.

If he does gamble, he might want to place a bet on himself to win the celebrity golf tournament July 17-19 at Edgewood-Tahoe Golf Course in Lake Tahoe.

Harrah's race and sports book has him at a 499-1 underdog, though he won't pay off as much as he has in the past. Barkley was a 500-1 longshot to win the 2008 tournament and routinely finishes last.

"You know what, I'm going down," Barkley said about the odds.

Barkley said his golf game has improved under the tutelage of his pal Hank Haney, who is Tiger Woods' swing coach.

Barkley said he has been hitting at least 1,000 balls two days a week while taping the Golf Channel's "Hank Haney Project/Charles Barkley."

"I don't think there is any other sport where you can do something that much and not get better quicker," said Barkley, an 11-time NBA All-Star and MVP whose hitching, halting golf swing has his fans and friends alternately howling and shaking their heads.

"I think if you went out and shot 1,000 jump shots a day you would see more improvement at a quicker pace," he said.

He said the TV exposure with Haney helped bring him more golf tips from strangers "than any person in the world."

"When I go to the dry cleaners, those guys are trying to help me. When I'm walking through the supermarket, they wish me luck," he said.

"Everybody wants me to try something. Little old ladies walking the street want to give me advice. It's hilarious," he said.