NBA Champion Leandro Barbosa. That’s how anyone who worked so hard to find himself in the right situation ought to be referred forevermore. We know him for his seven years of Beep-Beeping and his 6th Man of the Year win, but the league’s growing fan base has come to know him as a 15 minute per game bench cog on two Warriors squads that rocked the foundation of the league. What makes a guy choose a situation like the one in Phoenix over remaining with the Warriors or a similarly competitive team?
I believe the answer is twofold: the first reason is that there is an opportunity in Phoenix to continue to get on the court, as well as into the open ears of the team’s young stars. The second is that he must really feel comfortable within the infrastructure of the Suns organization. Both are important here.
Despite a cluttered backcourt rotation, Phoenix presents a nice opportunity for Leandro in the twilight of his career. Sure, there are three guys who have been all but promised a starter’s load of minutes. As Dave reported on Monday:
“It will be a mix,” Suns coach Watson said of the fourth guard off the bench behind Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker and Brandon Knight. “Depending on how the game flows. We really want to try to keep two out of those three on the court at the same time, so it really can’t be a solid 10. That 10th guy flows here and there. Whoever that guy is, will play itself out.”
Barbosa has the chance to be that tenth guy, getting low double-digit minutes when health, foul, or streakiness issues bubble up. Furthermore, it wouldn’t be unexpected to see someone like Brandon Knight or P.J. Tucker swirl around the trade rumor mill once again, and that would of course free up more minutes.
On the practice court and on the bench, Barbosa offers the savvy of a man who epitomizes the journeyman archetype for NBA players. He knows the potential of chemistry and intelligence on a basketball court, having been a large part of the SSOL Suns in the 2000s and the recent Warriors championship squads that have re-imagined that brand of basketball.
Having struggled to find a role between his first departure from Phoenix and his second coming in Golden State, he also surely understands the value of perseverance and work to overcome shortcomings or poor play. Remember this?
Back to that second point; the comfort he feels in this city and within this organization is perhaps his most valuable trait. Few players in recent years have shown a particular yearning to be a part of this franchise, and the potential return of this passion has to be valued as a byproduct of the offseason returns of Barbosa and Jared Dudley.
There’s a chance here for guys like Devin Booker and T.J. Warren to continue their development next to players who truly represent and understand the best of Suns basketball. Call it intangible or ridiculous, but the mismanagement of personalities is a large part of why the Suns are in this mess in the first place. That they understood this to a degree that led them to prioritize that communal energy once more is a great sign.
Leandro Barbosa, whether he produces in any impactful way on the floor, will be a key part of re-energizing the organization and spearheading a revival of the highest peaks of Suns basketball. Beep beep.