CHARLES BARKLEY, that struggling duffer of note, doesn't think it matters who owns the Sixers, his one-time club.

"Nobody cares, to be honest," said the NBA Hall of Famer/TNT analyst yesterday on a media call for the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship next month in Lake Tahoe, where his odds of winning are listed at 500-1.

"It's about the coaches and the players. Doug [Collins] did a fantastic job this year, they're going in the right direction, people just have to be patient. You want your team to be good. It's no big deal who the owner is."

Sir Charles acknowledged that he has considered being one, perhaps even in Philly or Phoenix (where he went to the NBA Finals in 1993).

"The last group that tried to put something together [here], a couple of years ago, I had some preliminary talks with them," he said. "But that deal fell through. I don't know anything about this new group.

"It would be a just-for-the-hell-of-it type of thing . . . ceremonial. I don't have the kind of cash Michael [Jordan] has, to get majority ownership or make basketball decisions, just take complete control. I might do it as just a good, fun investment. I'd just put a few million in. I wouldn't be a speaking owner."

Yeah, right. Unless . . .

"Maybe after I win Lake Tahoe," he mused. "If I put down a million dollars, I think I could make it work. You never know. I'm close."

This, from a guy who has such a serious hitch in his swing that he's considering playing lefty.

"I don't know what to say about my game," Barkley admitted. "It's not like I'm kicking [butt] righthanded. But there are worse things to stink at in life than golf."

Did we mention that Nike sent him three drivers to replace the one he just broke?

"I got them all adjusted," he said. "I don't know whether to play a good, a cut or just hit a straight ball."

At least they have casinos out there. "The [bets] will be flowing," he said. "I promise you that."

- Mike Kern

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