It's nice to watch Basketball again. It was even nicer to watch Leandro Barbosa in a uniform running the point, getting steals and shooting lights out from the three point land (sorry rosewood). Leandro is by far my favorite player and watching him mature and develop into a complete basketball player has been a pleasure. The only problem for me today was that he was doing all of this against the Panama National Team.
There are 10 teams fighting for only 4 spots in World Championship that will take place at Turkey in 2010. Group A has: Uruguay, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico and Virgin Islands while Group B has: Brazil, Panama, Venezuela, Dominican Republic and Argentina. All of the games take place at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Brazil leads all teams by improving their record (4-0) today while beating what looked like a confused and depleted Panama team. Leandro was Brazil's leading scorer with 17 points while Varejao finished the game with 15. On behalf of Panama Danilo Pinnock had 24 points and Joel Muñoz had only 8.
Brazil's game plan
Brazil's coach, Spaniard Moncho Monsalve, went to Leandro early in the game setting up plays for three point shots. The long distance attack continued while LB ran the point. He created shots for team mates Garcia and Huertas who also contributed knocking down shots from behind the arc.
The Panamanians made defensive adjustments and were able to cut the lead with a 9-0 run to finish the 2nd Quarter down only by 6 points (42-36). The first half ended with an acrobatic, Kobe-like shot by Panama's forward Danilo Pinnock. He knocked down the three point shot at the buzzer with two defenders on him.
2nd Half Collapse
Panama had adjusted their perimeter defense; therefore, forcing Brazil to play in the paint but Panama's small front court was exposed resulting in easy baskets for Varejao. LB once again showed that he's comfortable getting the ball to his team mates in the paint. Brazil was able to build a comfortable lead and they never looked back.
Thoughts on LB
Leandro is currently the tournaments' leading scorer averaging 19 points per game. I know he can score, that doesn't surprise me but his shot selection has been awesome. He's trying to get his team mates involved and he's showing great passing skills under pressure. As a result Brazil leads the tournament in assists, finishing today's game with 24. Once he arrived in Puerto Rico, he was interviewed and asked about his beloved team, The Phoenix Suns. This is what he said: "Our team is different now, but we don't know what's going to happen. What we do know is that Steve Nash is coming back and we are really happy about that. Besides, Amar'e is coming back also, both of them are really important and I'm sure it will play out well"
You see, the Brazilian Blur is confident and so should we!
Thoughts on the Panama National Team
This wouldn't be one of my posts without my usual rant so bare with me. Watching this team is like a kick in the nuts. Don't get me wrong, there's talent but there's no discipline at all. How is it possible that our starting PG ends up with only 8 points and 3 assists? And he was our second best player! As soon as Brazil made a run in the third quarter he completely gave up and his team mates followed. You could tell by his body language. Sometimes people tend to forget the importance of having a good point guard on the team. It's not only passing or scoring or having good court vision. You are supposed to make plays for your team mates, get them fired up, and lead the offensive attack. If you put your head down most likely the team will do the same. Your demeanor and the way you react to things is important because the spot light is on you.
Your team mates are looking at you because you have the ball, your coach, everyone.
The team's staff needs to do a better job scouting players. Just because a certain player is usually on fire in pick up games doesn't make him a good pro. It's time to do it the old way, what happened to try outs and competing for a spot? A friend of mine tried to get in and he was told that all spots were filled. He begged for a chance to show them he could play and they closed the door in his face. I bet they could use a player like him right now...
Anyways, it was certainly a bitter sweet day for me. Leandro played great and showed improvement in his defense and running the point. If he continues like this he'll become the complete package. Does he deserve a starting spot on the Phoenix Suns? with what I've seen so far, the answer is Yes.