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Another Year For Barkley

Charles Barkley will return to the Houston Rockets and is almost ready to sign a deal, the team's owner said Friday.

Les Alexander told Houston radio station KTRH-AM and television station KRIV that the sides are close to a signing a one-year contract.

"People in our organization have spoken to Charles, and Charles is definitely coming back," Alexander said, adding that negotiations have taken place over the last 10 days.

Kenny Thomas, the Rockets' top draft pick who has said he wanted to be tutored by Barkley at the power forward position, signed a contract with the Rockets on Friday. Terms were not disclosed.

Barkley initially said he was leaning toward retirement after the Los Angeles Lakers ousted the aging Rockets in the first round of the playoffs last season.

Later, he said the Lakers, Seattle Supersonics and Utah Jazz were interested in his services. He reversed his stance last week, saying he hoped to have a deal with the Rockets done by mid-August.

Barkley, a 14-year veteran, has spent the last three seasons in Houston. His agent, Glenn Guthrie, did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press.

Alexander also said he was hopeful Scottie Pippen would remain with the team as well, but would not rule out a trade, which the forward reportedly has requested.

"I wasn't especially pleased," Alexander said of the trade demand. "He's the first person since I've owned the team who has really asked not to play in Houston."

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