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How Leandro Barbosa and Jared Dudley fit in with Phoenix Suns youth movement

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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns only dips into the free agent pool so far appear to be aimed at bringing some guys home to where their careers peaked and their hearts remained even after being traded away.

Jared Dudley and Leandro Barbosa have always loved their time in Phoenix, to the point where they can't shake that love of the valley no matter how much time has passed.

Dudley

After playing in Phoenix from 2008-2013, new Suns GM Ryan McDonough's first big move was to trade Dudley to the Los Angeles Clippers in a three-way deal that netted the Suns the best young prospect on the market in Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe went on to become the Suns best young player in the past three years, playing close to All-Star caliber, but has missed almost half the Suns games due to knee issues.

Dudley, a career rotation player who would never be more than your fifth best player, knew the Suns had made the right move and never held a grudge. In the April exit interviews once the 25-57 season ended, he had even suggested the Suns trade him and Luis Scola and Marcis Gortat for youth to jump start the rebuild.

The trade was a good one for Dudley too. He and the Clippers thought he'd be their starting small forward for a deep playoff run, but unfortunately he experienced a few injuries that derailed the season and forced the Clippers to look elsewhere. He was traded to Milwaukee the next summer, where he - in his own words on Burns and Gambo yesterday - began to evolve into a leader and mentor for young players while changing his game to become more of a swing forward than a wing player.

He always kept his love for Phoenix. Last year, he said he wanted to opt out of his deal and re-sign with Phoenix, but the timing wasn't right and his back was in need of minor surgery and rehab. So he opted into his final year, and was traded to Washington. There he spent most of the year as big man in small lineups - more than 90% of his 26 minutes per game were at the 4 or 5 position, stretching the floor to provide space for Wall and Beal to drive to the rim.

When he re-signed in Phoenix last week, he got a number of well-wishes from fellow NBA players recognizing his continued love for Phoenix and wishing him the best in the latter stages of his career.

The Blur

Leandro Barbosa, once the Sixth Man of the Year, played for the Suns from 2003-2010, before being traded at his request because he wasn't getting enough playing time behind Jason Richardson. He was traded in the summer of 2010 for Hedo Turkoglu, if you recall.

Barbosa never really got the big minutes he wanted after that, and played for both the Raptors and Celtics before suffering his own injury issues. He didn't get a contract offer in 2013, instead playing for his national team until someone would sign him.

In swooped the Suns, who signed him in January 2014. He started strong, but had more nagging injuries and barely played as the Suns fought for playoff position. It looked as if he career might be over at the tender age of 31.

Then everything got better for him.

Steve Kerr signed him to play for Golden State the last two years, and played behind Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and next to Shawn Livingston as the Warriors made the NBA Finals in consecutive years. In that time, LB proved to be an invaluable veteran leader who was happy with 16 minutes a game while doing whatever the team needed in his minutes.

But he's always kept a love for Phoenix. I'll never forget his first return to Phoenix after the trade to Toronto. His Raptors beat the Suns that night, helped by Barbosa's big game. After the game, he did an on-court interview and nearly broke down talking about how much he loved the fans and the city and the franchise.

Fit in Phoenix

Dudley said on Burns and Gambo yesterday that he can't wait to start his second stint with the Suns, this time with his eyes wide open that he will gladly help develop the Suns' youth and sacrifice his own minutes to whatever degree is needed.

He said he would play 30 minutes, 20 minutes or no minutes, and it wouldn't bother him. He can play the four, play the three. Whenever those guys are ready for more minutes - year 1, year 2 or year 3 - he'd step aside and help them succeed. All he wants to do is blend in and help bring the Suns back to playoff contention.

Dudley knows exactly who he is - a supporting player there to make others look good. He spaces the floor (42% on threes), provides tertiary ball handling (2.1 assists playing more than 90% of his time at the 4 or 5), and defends with his heart and head and sliding feet.

Barbosa is a backup shooting guard used to getting 15 minutes a game. He is not a point guard in any sense of the word, but after several years with Nash and two more in Golden State's environment, he knows the value of passing and setting up a better shot with passing rather than taking the contested shot.

But he's not a playmaker. So Barbosa's addition should have zero impact on Tyler Ulis or Ronnie Price. And he likely has zero impact on Archie Goodwin. If Goodwin earns the minutes, LB won't take them away.

Where Barbosa impacts the roster is mainly to take John Jenkins' spot (and the spot of all those D-League callups the Suns cycled through as injuries mounted last year).

Barbosa can be counted on to come in ready to play, no matter how few or many minutes he gets. At 33, he just wants to be back in Phoenix to finish his career.

Home

In the new NBA where players are teaming up and leaving the team that drafted them for a better chance at a ring, the Suns may have correctly decided it's time to rebuild the Suns image as a place that players really want to play.

There are few better examples of NBA player love for Phoenix than Jared Dudley and Leandro Barbosa. It's just a shame the Room Store closed down, or they'd have their spokesman back in LB.

After a year where players made a habit of saying they didn't want to play in Phoenix anymore, it's nice to hear a couple of vets saying the exact opposite.