On the NBA
by: , BARRY

Brent Barry could play his first game for San Antonio since Jan. 24 at 3 p.m. Sunday when the Spurs visit the Rose Garden to take on the Trail Blazers.

Or maybe not.

The former Oregon State standout continues with rehab of a calf muscle that has kept him idle for all but 29 games this season.

'I'm real close to playing,' Barry says. 'I'll be making the trip up there for sure, and there might be a chance to get some spot minutes against Portland.'

Barry could have chosen to play elsewhere after his trade to Seattle on Feb. 21 along with Francisco Elson and a future first-round draft pick for power forward Kurt Thomas. The SuperSonics waived Barry the next day, and agent Arn Tellum spoke with a half-dozen teams interested in the 13-year veteran's services.

Phoenix General Manager Steve Kerr met with Barry and his wife, Erin, in San Antonio, 'and that would have been an interesting opportunity,' Barry says.

Instead, he chose to re-sign with San Antonio.

'Maybe at a different time and place in my career, I'd have explored other opportunities,' he says. 'I talked to a lot of people and was flattered by the amount of attention.

'But the chance to return to San Antonio, to keep my family here, to stay with my teammates and have an opportunity to finish my career here … it just made the most sense.'

Under NBA rules, Barry had to wait 30 days to re-sign.

'I was in basketball purgatory for a while,' he says with a laugh. 'I'm very excited to still be with the Spurs. I wish I was able to play right now, but I'm still working to make sure I'm completely healthy. It doesn't do me or the team any good if I'm not.'

Barry's left calf feels good, but now the issue is scar tissue that has worked its way down to the Achilles tendon.

'We're trying to flush (the scar tissue) out,' he says. 'We're getting there.'

Barry, 36, was having a solid season before the injury, averaging 7.3 points while shooting .481 from the field, .430 from 3-point range and .950 from the foul line. Coach Gregg Popovich has indicated he will use Barry's savvy and offensive talents off the bench when San Antonio enters the postseason.

The Spurs - 52-23 after Tuesday's 116-92 drubbing of Golden State - are getting hot at the right time. They've won eight straight going into tonight's matchup with Utah and remain in the running to finish the regular season with the best record in the Western Conference.

'We're positioning ourselves nicely,' Barry says. 'Pop has been talking a lot about how the seeds don't mean anything in the West, and he's pretty much dead-on in that.

'There will be no upsets in the first round. Nobody will surprise me if they win or lose, the way the season has transpired, and that's awesome. There's a tremendous amount of excitement about that. It could be (a West playoffs) for the ages.'

Over the past decade, San Antonio has won four NBA championships, including last season. With Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and a deep, talented supporting cast, the Spurs have a shot at making it No. 5.

'I'm hoping our experience will cause some problems,' says Barry, who has a pair of rings from his contributions on the 2005 and '07 squads. 'We have Tim down there in the middle, and Manu has had a monster year. He has taken this team on the back for a couple of weeks at a time. We have the same group of guys and some inner strength in pressure situations.'

When they re-signed him, the Spurs gave Barry - whose contract expired after this season - an additional guaranteed year. He'll probably retire after that, but he won't fade from the public eye.

'I don't think anything could keep me from being around basketball,' Barry says. 'It's been such a big part of my life. I would seriously consider broadcasting or a front-office opportunity to evaluate some talent and look at some things. Coaching never really entered my mind, but I might take some crazy pills and think about doing that.

'For now, it's about focusing in on this season. I'm a small part of what's happening in San Antonio, but I'm glad to be a part of it.'

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