CHARLES BARKLEY may never reach Yogi Berra's heights of quotability, but as sports figures go, he's making a strong bid to join the front rank. Some of his best lines are now in a book - ``Sir Charles: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles Barkley'' (Warner Books) - written with the help of Sports Illustrated writer Rick Reilly.
Though a mere 127 pages, the collection sells for $14.95. For those who might be curious but find that price too steep, here are a few samples:
* ``People respect honesty. There are a lot of athletes out there who are just walking PR firms.''
* ``Whatever I am when it's time to play, that's my playing weight.''
* ``Pressure is for tires.''
* ``The only difference between a good shot and a bad shot is if it goes in or not.''
* ``NBA stands for `No Babies Allowed.' ''
Barkley was last year's Most Valuable Player. Though not considered an MVP candidate this year, he has caught fire in the playoffs. In Phoenix's three-game sweep of the Golden State Warriors, he scored 112 points, including a career high 56 in a series-clinching 140-133 win. Lendl fades out of Top 20
FOR the first time in 14 years, Ivan Lendl has fallen out of tennis's Top 20. But the fact that he was there for so long is remarkable in a sport where staying power is less and less evident. Lendl was not flashy enough to gain the attention he deserved at the height of his career, but his 13-year run as a Top 10 player is second only to Jimmy Connors's 16-year streak.
Had he been born in the United States, Lendl might have become the darling of American crowds. But as a native of Czechoslovakia who only gained his US citizenship in 1992, Lendl was often in limbo as a marketable superstar. He has become more and more involved in Connecticut, though, since taking up residence there in 1984. He now serves on the board of directors of the National Hockey League's Hartford Whalers and runs a sports-management company. Touching other bases
* If Barry Switzer, the new coach of the Dallas Cowboys, guides his team to a third straight National Football League championship next season, many observers will be amazed. It's not that Switzer isn't a good coach - he is. But he's been out of coaching since 1989, when a firestorm of controversy forced his resignation from the University of Oklahoma, where his teams ran the Wishbone, a very un-NFL-like offense. Switzer, ironically, is being reunited with the very quarterback, Troy Aikman, who left Oklahoma for UCLA when Switzer was the Sooners's coach. Aikman wanted to play for a team that could better utilize his pass-throwing ability. With the Cowboys, Switzer will probably let the team's offensive coordinator oversee a pro-style attack. Jimmy Johnson, the team's ex-head coach, says Switzer ``will be all right as long as he doesn't make any suggestions.''
* The down side of Major League Baseball's switch from four to six divisions is evident in the American League's woeful West, where no team has won even half of its games. If this doesn't change, the result would be a baseball first - a sub-.500 team in the playoffs, since division winners automatically advance into the postseason.
* For American Michael Chang, what occurred after last month's Salem Open in Hong Kong was as exciting as what happened in winning the event. The Changs went to Guangzhou, China, to visit Michael's 94-year-old great-grandmother, whom he met for the first time. Michael's father, Joe, hadn't seen her since he left China in 1948.