PHOENIX — Suns guard Leandro Barbosa will miss about a month after the team decided he should undergo surgery to remove a cyst from his ailing right shooting wrist, GM Steve Kerr announced about 45 minutes before the Suns were set to take on the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. The surgery will take place on Tuesday.
The wrist, which Barbosa originally injured when he took a hard fall during the FIBA Americas playing for Brazil, has previously been aspirated and he has taken anti-inflammatories, but the swelling remains and the wrist has continued to bother LB’s shot profusely.
“The wrist was affecting his shooting because of the pain, so I think he’ll be really relieved with the pain gone when he does come back,” Kerr said. “He hasn’t had the flexibility in his wrist to be able to get the ball in the right position, and that’s one of the reasons he’s struggling. So it’s important for us to get this right for his peace of mind, and I’m confident once he’s back to normal you’ll see the same LB that we’ve always seen.”
Added Suns coach Alvin Gentry, “The cyst on the shooting hand, it’s been tough for him because obviously we know what kind of shooter that he’s been since he’s been here, but he hasn’t been able to do it with any consistency.”
Kerr said it is “highly unlikely” the cyst would return after surgery, but it is possible. Barbosa will be able to start running and conditioning about a week after surgery, so he should be ready to go once it heals approximately a month after surgery.
Indeed LB has not been the consistent scorer he has been for years for the Suns, missing both driving layups and spot-up jumpers that he normally hits. The numbers bear that out, as Barbosa is shooting 42.2 percent from the floor and 33.0 percent from three, compared to career averages of 46.8 percent and 40.0 percent. His 10.6 ppg average is his lowest since his second season after averaging 13.1, 18.1, 15.6 and 14.2 ppg the last four years.
He has been particularly off since returning from a sprained left ankle on Christmas, averaging 12.5 ppg on 40.5 percent shooting and 28.6 percent from three in four December games and then 8.7 ppg on 34.7 percent shooting from the field and 26.8 percent shooting from distance in January.
“The last couple weeks it has worsened,” Kerr said. “That’s really just for his peace of mind and to play the odds, this is the direction we’re going.”
Jason Richardson regains his starting spot with LB out, and Goran Dragic will get more time at the two. Jared Dudley and Grant Hill could get extra time at the guard spot as well.
“We’re confident that what we have is enough,” Kerr said. “Really the fact is you have to consider what’s out there. If we go sign someone from the D-League, that person could help, but is he likely to play in front of the guys we have? No. We’ll evaluate all that and see where it goes.”
Don’t expect the Suns to get much sympathy from the Warriors tonight, as Golden State only dressed nine players, compared to seven players missing the game due to injury. That includes two D-Leaguers in the starting lineup (Anthony Tolliver and Cartier Martin), as well as rookie Stephen Curry, who played all 48 minutes last night against New Jersey. That’s after Curry logged 49 minutes on Wednesday, 43 on Monday and 48 last Friday.
Missing Monta Ellis — who averages a league-high 42.0 minutes per game, has played a full 48 10 times and has logged 195 minutes more than Phoenix’s minutes leader Amare Stoudemire in three fewer team games — along with half his team, the Suns should feel lucky that Barbosa is the only player they need to replace tonight.