Remembering Leandro Barbosa as a Phoenix Sun

Leandro Barbosa's fearsome forays to the hoop will be missed.

Besides Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire, only one member of the Phoenix Suns had been along for the ride from the start of this era with Shawn Marion and Joe Johnson to the end of it with Jason Richardson and a 10-man rotation.

But while Amare Stoudemire’s departure was a franchise-changing event, the end of Leandro Barbosa’s seven-year tenure in Phoenix barely registered a blip on the radar with Hedo Turkoglu coming back in return for LB and Josh Childress acquired at the same time.

As weird as it was to watch LB draining threes (and bricking a whole lot more) for Brazil against Team USA on Monday in green and yellow, it’s going to be even stranger the first time the Raptors and Suns get together and LB is wearing the wrong shade of purple.

A Barbosa trade was almost inevitable. He was making too much money ($14.7 million over the next two years if he exercises his player option) for a guy who had fallen to the very back of Phoenix’s rotation. It didn’t make fiscal sense to keep him, especially with Goran Dragic expected to take on a bigger role and even more especially once the Suns found out they could acquire Childress.

Barbosa told Dime Magazine that he asked for a trade when the season ended and the Suns found him a suitable home.

“It’s a better situation for me, because I know that I will play more minutes than I used to in Phoenix,” Barbosa said. “I’m a little bit sad because I loved Phoenix and I love the friends that I made in the organization. I will miss that. But I think everybody knows the NBA is a business, and we’re all involved in that business. Any day it can happen, and this time it happened to me.

His final season in Phoenix was rough for Barbosa. He injured his wrist during the summer playing for Brazil and then suffered a sprained ankle a month into the season. He returned in late December but the wrist was never right and he ended up getting it operated on a month later. When he finally returned in mid-March, Dragic had asserted himself and LB never could find the rhythm he possessed in Phoenix in prior years.

Barbosa shot a career-low 32.4 percent from three (he shot 44.4 and 43.4 from long range in consecutive years earlier this decade), and the former incredible finisher at the rim all too often missed layups he’s converted his entire career in scoring just 9.5 points per game. He has admitted that the sporadic playing time was tough on him, and he was the worst player on the Suns in terms of Wins Produced in the playoffs.

Sometimes a player just needs a change of scenery. I fully believe that Leandro Barbosa can be a dynamic bench player once again if given the requisite time and offensive freedom, but that wasn’t going to happen in Phoenix.

In the FIBA World Championship, Barbosa has thus far led Brazil to the No. 3 seed in Group B, which means the Brazilians will face Argentina in a round of 16 South American showdown on Tuesday at 11 a.m. MST. Through pool play Barbosa is tied for 10th in the tournament in scoring, leading Brazil with an average of 15.4 points per game to go with 3.6 boards and a paltry 1.4 assists per game (he’s not a playmaker even on his own national team). LB is shooting 54.3 percent on twos but just 23.8 percent from deep.

Barbosa is now an established star for the Brazilian national team, but he once was a second-year NBA player clanking shots off the side of the backboard in the West Finals before a few years later morphing into the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, becoming a scoring machine who produced the majority of the offense off Phoenix’s anemic benches under Mike D’Antoni.

LB possesses a kind soul, and he was a perfect fit offensively next to Steve Nash in the Seven Seconds or Less system.

According to Basketball Reference, Barbosa would have rated as the player who has played for the best offenses in NBA history if he had qualified for the minimum requirement of 15,000 minutes played (Nash and Amare are first and second), a striking endorsement to his offensive prowess.

LB was a lightning quick player who could put up 10-point quarters seemingly at will. He was the Suns’ microwave and he turned countless games with his scoring and speed off the bench.

Barbosa was a model player off the floor, and a big reason for the Suns’ dynamic offenses during the height of his run in Phoenix.

But sometimes it’s just not working out anymore. The Suns are concentrating more on building their team around length and defense, and they have enough offense elsewhere that LB just didn’t fit anymore.

He will always be associated with the prior era of Suns basketball and should be remembered as a dynamic scorer, genuinely good guy and one of the most prototypical players of that style of ball.

Tags: Leandro Barbosa

  • Mel.

    I'd agree with Auggie. He had the unfortunate experience of returning from his wrist injury and the emotional toll of losing his mother, only to find that the Suns were seriously changing their floor approach.

    Without those setbacks, I think he would have found a nice spot in the rotation; trying to jump back into the midst of the overhaul while finding his legs and his shot seemed pretty debilitating. I trust he'll have a nice renaissance in Toronto, and wish the guy nothing but the best in his career. He was one hell of a fun player to watch.

  • vs

    Something I made for BSOTS a whle back:
    http://lh4.ggpht.com/_oh0lG5AWIko/TDwrIliOGhE/AAA

  • Momochi-Sandayu

    We're going to miss you 'Bosa. The inquisitive mouse will be long remembered….

  • Auggie

    Gonna miss Barbosa. I look for him to average 20 points a game in Toronto.

  • JC

    What if it were possible to acquire 2 big young players by the end of the year or All-Star break? I am talking about Sacramento’s Jason Thompson and New Jersey’s Brook Lopez (AKA Robin’s twin brother) The only downside would be sacrificing everyone’s favorite charismatic player, Jared Dudley…and Earl Clark. The Suns, Kings, Nets could make a three way trade in which:
    Suns acquire Jason Thompson (Kings) and Brook Lopez (Nets), Kris Humphries (Nets)
    Kings acquire Earl Clark (Suns), Hakim Warrick (Suns), Terrence Williams (Nets), and Phoenix future 2nd round pick.
    Nets acquire Jared Dudley (Suns), Donte Greene (Kings), Dwayne Jones (Suns)?, Suns 2nd round pick and Suns future 1st round pick (protected)?

    This would give Phoenix an upgraded starting line-up:
    PG- Steve Nash
    SG- Jason Richardson
    SF- Hedo Turkoglu
    PF- Jason Thompson
    C- Brook Lopez

    Reserves:
    PG- Goran Dragic
    SG- Josh Childress
    SF- Grant Hill
    PF- Channing Frye
    C- Robin Lopez

    PF- Humphries (can be waived), PF- Lawal, PG/SG- Janning

    Jared could let his final year of his contract expire with the Nets and return to the Suns next season for the full mid-level exception. After the trade, Robin and Hill would be put as the reserve Center and Small forward with Frye moving to the Power Forward position. In the end, the Suns would have the Twin Lopez Towers and an agile power forward in Jason Thompson.

    What do you guys think? Would you give up 4 Suns players (Jones, Clark, Warrick, Dudley?!?) and 2 draft picks to acquire 2 young big men?

    Trade would look kind of like this:

    http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=292752r

  • Dan

    Good luck in Toronto LB, we’ll miss ya here in Phoenix…

  • Daniel

    I’m sad to see Barbosa go and I’ll cheer on the Raptors this year, just as I will the Knicks. I was also glad to hear that he actually requested the trade, considering how emotionally fragile he’s always seemed. Good luck Roadrunner

  • Bob

    Doubt New Jersey would go for that trade JC. They wouldn’t even think about putting Lopez on the table when talking about Fernandez.

    Besides Robin has a higher ceiling than Brook.

  • Nas

    As a Lakers fan, whenever the Lakers is against the Pheonix, Barbosa is the second player I fear the most behind Steve Nash. Whenver he is on he is REALLY on. He is that good. I think he is better than Hedo but I guess Pheonix management knows better. Good luck to Barbosa in Toronto.

  • suns68

    I miss Barbosa already. There’s a lot to be said for having the fastest guy in the league and I’m sure he’ll find three-point range again when he’s fully over his hand surgery. I wish him all the best in Toronto.

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  • http://valleyofthesuns.com Jay

    @ JC How do you figure even if we got Brook Lopez, that Robin would not start over him. Robin Lopez is tougher, has a higher shooting percentage, and does all the dirty work for Phoenix. And trade Dudely, for what. Look at how many big games he has won for us. These guys are true players. When times get tough, they are not afraid to step up. Like most people, you are probably already counting us out. Yet, I would not throw in the towel so fast. You will be surprised how versatile we will be this year. We should have a great season.

    And I do wish L.B. the best. I have watched many games where he would hit a big three to give us a lead or a shot at winning in the crunch time. L.B. you will always have a huge place in the hearts of true Phoenix Suns fans. You will be missed dearly.

  • Bond

    LB is able to produce all-star offensive performance occasionally. It is a nice break-up for both.

    I am sure every suns fan miss you very very much. Stun the league again, LB!