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Charles Barkley: Suns’ winning a ‘wakeup call’ for Deandre Ayton

Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns during the second half of the NBA game against the Sacramento Kings at Talking Stick Resort Arena on October 23, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Kings 124-95. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Take it from a man who faced his early career missteps and learned from it: Deandre Ayton can take his 25-game diuretic suspension as a wakeup call.

Former Phoenix Suns forward Charles Barkley often credits his veteran, Moses Malone of the Philadelphia 76ers, for helping him lose 50 pounds en route to Barkley’s own NBA breakout.

While weight loss isn’t an issue for Ayton, the Suns’ current center, Barkley believes the team’s second-year pro and 2018 first overall pick should be motivated by watching the Suns’ 5-2 start.

“Number one, they’re winning without him,” Barkley told Bickley & Marotta on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station, “but secondly, I think he’s going to have to play so hard against (Aron) Baynes every day in practice.

“To play against a guy like Baynes and those guys every day, he can’t take days off, but I think the biggest wakeup call is that they’re winning without him. If that’s not a wake up call — there’s no person with any common sense that thinks that Ayton does not have more talent than Baynes — but they’re playing better with Baynes in there. It’s got to be a wakeup call.”

Baynes, the bruising 32-year-old center, is averaging 15.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.

While those numbers and his 48% three-point shooting might regress over the remaining 19 games of Ayton’s suspension, there is already curiosity as to if Ayton will return to the starting lineup when his suspension is up — and whether he will knock a red-hot team off its rhythm.

Barkley believes all will be forgiven once Ayton returns. But Ayton, Barkley said, needs to show more remorse publicly and in the locker room to move on.

“He got to apologize to the team. I would get on camera, apologize to the fans, the owner,” Barkley said. “You’ve got to apologize before we go forward. We gonna forgive you. The one thing about sports, we going to forgive you if you’re on our team. We’re going to forgive you but you’ve got to apologize and you can’t do it again.”

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