I had Leandro Barbosa pegged for a monster season in 2009-10. Coming off a down year where he endured the death of his mother and nagging injuries, Barbosa used the summer to lead the Brazilian national team to a FIBA Americas gold medal (and an automatic spot in the 2012 Olympics), and with his health in order, seemed ready to blow up like he did when he won NBA Sixth Man of the Year three years ago.
Didn’t quite happen that way. While his Phoenix Suns surprised everyone by making a run to the Western Conference Finals, Barbosa averaged only 9.5 points in 17 minutes per game and shot just 42 percent from the floor. Earlier this summer, he was traded to the Toronto Raptors in a deal for Hedo Turkoglu.
Barbosa played at Rucker Park earlier today in a scrimmage between Team Brazil and Team Puerto Rico, and I spoke to him after his team was on the wrong end of a blowout:
Dime: How are you feeling about the trade to the Raptors?
Leandro Barbosa: I’m happy. It’s a better situation for me, because I know that I will play more minutes than I used to in Phoenix. 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.
Dime: Did you know there was a trade in the works?
LB: Yeah, I knew I was going to get traded. I asked for a trade after the season. I told Phoenix I wanted to play in a better situation for me, which I think I have in Toronto. I didn’t get that chance to play a lot in Phoenix, so I wanted to go to a different team. The first team that came was Toronto, and I have a good relationship with Bryan Colangelo, so everything worked out.
Dime: What is your role going to be with the Raptors?
LB: I don’t know what my role or what position I’m going to play yet, but I’m going to do the best I can and help my team win.
Dime: Before the trade, did you have any friends on the Raptors?
LB: Oh yeah. I know (Andrea) Bargnani, I know (Jose) Calderon. All the international players, we all know each other because we play against each other a lot in tournaments.
Dime: How is Team Brazil looking for the World Championship?
LB: We’re looking good. A couple of players are not healthy right now, but they will be OK. We have really good chemistry. Every country is on a mission in the World Championship, and we’re on a mission. I’m hoping for good results.
Dime: Brazil has three NBA big men in Nene, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Varejao. With so many other big men out of the tournament — Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, guys like that — how will that help you guys?
LB: It will be an advantage. But FIBA is a totally different game, totally different tournament than the NBA. The rules, the ball, everything changes. It’s not like the NBA. So we’ll see what happens, but we do have good size and good players.