Once upon a time, Charles Barkley helped fill up America West Arena on a nightly basis.
From 1992, his first season with the Phoenix Suns, until 1996, his last, Sir Charles and the Suns were the hot ticket in town. If you were fortunate enough to get in, lucky you.
That has not been the case this season, though, as the Suns rank 22nd in the NBA in home attendance, filling up US Airways Center at 90.5 percent clip.
Last week, Suns forward Markieff Morris called out the Phoenix faithful, saying he does not feel the fans are behind the team.
A guest of Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday, Barkley — now an NBA analyst — offered a different perspective.
“He’s got to get over that,” Barkley said of Morris’ angst. “The reason I live in Phoenix, the fans are great. Listen, he has to understand one thing: they’re battling for the eight-seed. They’re not battling for the one-seed.
“Fans are not fully going to embrace the eight-seed.”
Entering play Friday, the Suns were 32-30, which was good enough for 10th in the Western Conference. They were a full two games behind eighth-seeded Oklahoma City.
“Last year it was cool they were battling for the eight-seed, but this is a different year, fans aren’t going to be like this,” Barkley said. “Last year, I think the fans were great last year, and the Suns had a surprising year — Jeff (Hornacek) did a fantastic job. But fans aren’t stupid, they’re not going to fall for the same trick. ‘Wait a minute, we’re battling for the eight-seed…again. Like we thought we were going to get better.’
“And they’re not getting better.”
The Suns are 17-13 at home this season, giving them a winning percentage of 57 in their own building. For comparison’s sake, last year the team won 63 percent of its home matchups.