Suns finalize extension for Leandro Barbosa

by Jeramie McPeek
VP, Digital
By Jerry Brown
East Valley Tribune
Aug. 5, 2006

Born and raised in Sao Paulo, Leandro Barbosa returns to Brazil every summer, plays for the national basketball team and keeps his family and homeland close to his heart.

But after spending his first three NBA years in Arizona as a Sun, Barbosa has settled into a comfort zone here as well — living in the West Valley, shopping for the groceries at a nearby store he uses for home-cooked meals, carpooling to work and fitting in perfectly in the laid-back, tranquil, Phoenix locker room.

The chance to stay in that comfort zone, and continue working with friend and assistant coach Dan D’Antoni, allowed negotiations for a contract extension with the Suns to progress quicker than anticipated. The five-year maximum extension, worth $33 million, was completed Friday and keeps Barbosa locked up through the 2011-12 season.

Barbosa, who will make $1.679 million for this upcoming season, the final of his initial contract, will jump to nearly $6 million in 2007-08 and continue upward from there.

“It’s going to take a day or two before I believe that this is done. It’s incredible,” Barbosa said Friday, before returning to Brazil and its national team, which is preparing for the upcoming world championships. “My family was very humble (growing up) and my first contract changed everything for us. This contract, I can’t even understand what it means. It’s wonderful.”

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Phoenix coach and general manager Mike D’Antoni was just as excited to have “The Brazilian Blur” signed to a long-term deal, joining Amaré Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Steve Nash, Raja Bell and Marcus Banks as Suns who are locked up through at least the 2008-09 season.

“We set out to keep our core together and LB is certainly a huge part of what we do,” Mike D’Antoni said. “He’s only going to get better.”

Barbosa may have made even more if he reached free agency, but said his goal was to stay with the Suns, where he blossomed at the shooting guard spot last year and averaged 13.1 points in 57 games. He made 11 starts and had some huge games during the postseason, when he averaged 14.2 points and had 26 in a Game 7 win over the Lakers.

“I felt very comfortable last year playing the (shooting) guard and working with Coach Dan. He’s my coach and also my friend and gave me a lot of confidence,” said Barbosa, who will play mostly point guard for the Brazilian team. “I really like the team, the coaches, the city, the whole situation. If it was possible to stay here, I wanted that.

“I think with Amaré back next year and all of the great players we have, we have a chance to win a championship and I’m glad I will be here to help us try to do it.”

The Suns signed Banks last month as backup point guard and he will team with Barbosa to give Phoenix two of the league's fastest players.

“I don’t know who’s faster, I guess we’ll find out in training camp,” Barbosa said. “But he’s perfect for us because was love to run and he’s going to make us even faster.”

COPYRIGHT 2005, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.