`Brazilian Blur' came of age against Lakers Print
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Friday, 20 April 2007 14:57
NBA Headline News

 PHOENIX (AP) -The Los Angeles Lakers are all too familiar with Leandro Barbosa. The ``Brazilian Blur'' came of age in Game 6 of their tense first-round playoff series against Phoenix a year ago.
Since then, Barbosa's game and confidence have been on the rise. As the fastest of the high-speed Suns - and a leading candidate for the NBA's sixth man award - Barbosa figures to play a major role when the Lakers and Suns open their rematch series Sunday.
``I can bring speed for the team,'' Barbosa said after the Suns worked out on Friday. ``This is what we want to do. Coach wants us to speed the game. They're going to try to slow down to the way they like to play, but we cannot let that happen. We've got to be fast on the court.''
Barbosa was fast when he came to the Suns in 2003, but it took awhile for his game to catch up. Steadily he improved.
He was thrust into the national spotlight a year ago when the Suns played at Los Angeles in Game 6, trailing the best-of-seven series 3-2. Raja Bell was suspended for the contest for throwing Kobe Bryant to the court the previous game, leading to Barbosa's first playoff start.
He went on to score 22 points on 7-for-9 shooting as the Suns won in overtime. In the process, he took an elbow to the mouth from Bryant, went to the locker room for four stitches on his lip, then came back and finished the game.
``The coach put me in a situation where I'm supposed to play, and I think I did a great job, especially because we didn't have Raja,'' Barbosa said. ``I think what I had in my mind was to be aggressive, and everything will be good.''
He kept it up in Game 7, scoring 26 points on 10-for-12 shooting as the Suns won in a rout to take the series 4-3.
Barbosa came to the Suns thanks to a trade with San Antonio that brought Phoenix the 28th, and final, pick in the 2003 draft. The Suns chose Barbosa, then a skinny 20-year-old who barely spoke a word of English. The transition was difficult to living in Arizona was difficult.
``It was tough, especially for me to get comfortable on the court because I couldn't speak with anybody,'' he said. ``Now it's totally different. I can understand and speak it. I'm very happy.''
Over time, Barbosa said he learned English by ``just listening and asking people what does that mean.''
After scoring 20 or more points four times in last year's playoffs, Barbosa's game and role expanded this season. He averaged 18.1 points, shooting 43 percent (190-of-438) from 3-point range. When he's not shooting long-range, he's driving to the hoop with an array of acrobatic shots, often off the glass.
``That's what he brings on both sides of the floor - speed that's hard for people to handle,'' coach Mike D'Antoni said. ``Add that with his 3-point shooting and he's one of the better players in the game.''
Often, Barbosa and Steve Nash are on the court together.
``He's my wide receiver,'' Nash said. ``It's a lot of fun to get him out there on the floor and watch how they try to defend him.''
D'Antoni's brother Dan, a Suns assistant, has worked with Barbosa one-on-one.
``He took him aside, and I think `LB' responds to individual coaching,'' Mike D'Antoni said. ``We know that, and my brother has coached some really good point guards.''
Phoenix locked up Barbosa with a five-year contract extension last August, and the Suns expect much more from the young man his countrymen call ``Leandrino.''
``He's got a lot more room to grow,'' Bell said. ``It's going to be interesting to see what his ceiling is - because I don't think anybody knows.''
 

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