CHARLOTTE, N.C., FEB. 8 -- The media swarm was intense around impeccably dressed Bernard King. He arrived for today's session with national basketball writers as if he had never missed six years between all-star appearances.

"It's going to be an exciting weekend," King said.

It's also King's first start in four all-star appearances.

King said Thursday that Michael Jordan, not he, would be under the media crush. He was wrong. They were just about equivalent. He also said he hadn't yet thought about the moment when he's introduced to the sellout crowd at Charlotte Coliseum.

"Not yet," he said. "The reason being we've been immersed in all these games. When I was selected to the all-star team, yeah, I thought about all of that. But I've been doing so many interviews of late. Come Saturday night I'll be thinking about that. But that's really tremendous. That's no small feat." Bird of a Different Feather

Philadelphia's Charles Barkley had a pointed retort for Detroit General Manager Jack McCloskey, who has questioned the selection of 76ers guard Hersey Hawkins to replace injured Larry Bird on the Eastern Conference roster. McCloskey thought his own Dennis Rodman should have been selected, especially since Rodman is a forward, like Bird.

Said Barkley: "That was really bad, what he said. Hawk had more votes than anybody else who didn't make the team. I think that's bull for him to ruin Hawk's moment. Just because they're two-time defending champs. . . . They've got to go by the rules like everybody else."

Barkley had more. The other night he said that King wasn't on a par with other NBA superstars. King chose not to parry with him Thursday. Yesterday Barkley tried to clarify things. It's not that King doesn't deserve it, he said, but King's not the only one working hard.

"This really bothers me," Barkley said. "For the past 20 years people have thought we're big, dumb morons doing nothing but jumping and running for a living. They don't understand the kind of tremendous will you have to have to be really good. We don't get credit for that, just because we're big and strong." Long-Range Blazers

Three Portland Trail Blazers will be in the three-point shooting contest: Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter and Danny Ainge. Ainge has done it before with Boston; Porter's a rookie at this sort of thing.

"The hard thing is going to be going out and beating my teammates," Drexler said. "I've told them not to take it personal." . . .

Atlanta's Dominique Wilkins pulled out of the slam-dunk contest, leaving Seattle's Shawn Kemp as a clear favorite.

"I would have liked to go up against Dominique again, and I thought for sure Michael would be in it because it's in Charlotte," Kemp said. "But, really, I think it's better for the dunk contest because now you have a lot of guys who don't have any experience." No Ducking This One

Phoenix's Kevin Johnson said last year that he felt like a kid at Disneyland in being named to his first all-star appearance. This year he was voted a starter by fans.

"Last year I felt more like a spectator," he said. "This year I feel like I'm performing. I'm supposed to be, maybe not a main character, but maybe something like Daffy Duck or somebody, a character that people are coming out to see." . . .

The Persian Gulf War is having an effect on the NBA's showcase weekend. Tighter security measures will be in place. Fans won't be allowed to bring cameras, camcorders, portable televisions, radios or other electronic devices into Charlotte Coliseum. Handbags will be inspected. All persons will have to go through metal detectors; items carried in will be scanned.