Rolling With Leandro: Gregory Dole's Barbosa File, Part Nine
Canadian Gregory Dole lives in Brazil, and describes himself as a "freelance writer, English as a second language teacher, basketball coach, basketball scout, and world traveller." That's a career that, not too long ago, took him deep into the life of a certain Brazilian Blur (and, to a lesser extent, William Wesley).
In the spring and summer of 2003, before and after the NBA draft, Dole was Leandro Barbosa's translator. In the hopes of landing a book deal, Dole is sharing tales of his time with Barbosa. The first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth parts were published in recent days. There are more to come. When we left them, Dole and Barbosa have flown to Phoenix for a last-minute team visit to the Phoenix Suns. Barbosa is injured and agreed to the trip only on the condition that he not work out. Dole has, at the urging of the Suns, talked Barbosa into taking the court merely to shoot in front of the assembled executives.
In the rush to get the workout over and done with, Leandrinho keeps on his street shoes and does not bother to take off his new Adidas watch. Not your traditional basketball attire.
Leandrinho goes out in street shoes with his watch on and has one of those days when everything goes in. He does not miss. And with every drill, the assistant coach running the workout adds more and more details, with increasing intensity and speed.
The Brazilian has that dog pound attitude intact, and hits a homerun. The Suns executives can not hide their smiles. They have their prize and it looks like they have a good chance of getting their man.
Workout over, Leandrinho does a taped interview, and puts on the kind of charm you seldom see in athletes. He knows how to work a room and make everyone love him. And they did.
Of course, he is still fuming mad at me for the perceived deception of taking him to Phoenix for an “interview” and instead going through a full workout. There is no love for brother Dole.
Showered and ready to leave, we are instead invited to lunch. The Suns want to do some medical checks on Leandrinho’s hip that afternoon so we will be staying around a while longer.
Walking through the basement of the arena, Griff tries to enliven his guests. “We really like him. Yeah, we really, really like him. So if he is around at our pick, tell Leandrinho that we are going to draft him,” says the Suns man.
I duly translate this awesome bit of news -- that justifies, essentially, Leandrinho's entire basketball career to this point, all those drills at the insistence of his drill sergeant brother, not to mention the last few months of traveling all over the nation trying to impress a team.
I try again. “So, you do realize that this guy just said the Suns are going to draft you. That’s some good news, no? You are a going to be a Phoenix Sun,” I say.
More famous last words from Leandrinho.
“Dog Pound” then takes us to a buffet lunch in the VIP suite at the nearby Arizona Diamondbacks stadium. Below us the Diamondbacks are playing a matinee game. It is pretty f’n cool.
But still no show of emotion from Leandrinho. Even “Dog Pound” is thrown by the Brazilian’s sour demeanor. We go to the hospital to take x-rays of Leandrinho’s hip. The doctor explains that, seeing as the Suns want to draft him, they want to make sure that he is in sound medical condition. A light bulb goes off. Suddenly, at this odd moment, Leandrinho realizes for the first time that he is really going to get drafted by the Suns.
He goes from dead serious to seriously happy as the team of Suns doctors begin to poke, probe, and x-ray him.
Medicals resolved, “Dog Pound” takes us to some fancy mall in Scottsdale as we kill time waiting for our flight.
We leave the air-conditioned hospital and jump into the air-conditioned van outside the exit doors, which is to say we were constantly surrounded by “air-conditionedness.”
We have not yet felt the Phoenix heat.
As we drive to the mall, I remember a classmate of mine when I was a kid who had what I thought at the time was a really cool t-shirt.
The front of the shirt was a picture of a thermometer, a smiling Sun, and a fried egg on a patch of asphalt. Below the design was the phrase, “I survived 125 degree heat in Phoenix.”
Fascinated by the idea of being able to cook food on the street, I never forgot about the t-shirt or the city of Phoenix. Getting out of the chilled meat locker of a van, I am knocked back by a fiery wall of heat.
I laugh. “What? Are you kidding me? It’s hotter than hell here. It’s officially stupid hot. Who can live here?”
Phoenix is not my sort of climate. We run to the mall to escape the heat.
Once inside, it is clear that whereas Phoenix might have seemed like hell to me, to Leandrinho this city is heaven.
Inside the mall is a sea of tall blondes, packed wall to wall, escalator to escalator. “This place," he barks, "is amazing! Delicious. And more delicious. I like this town, I really like this town. This is awesome that they want to draft me,” says Leandrinho.
No joke, I still believe that Leandrinho liked Phoenix more than the other cities because of the ridiculously high percentage of blondes in the city.
“But it is so hot, and it’s not even summer yet,” I said.
“I like it,” said Leandrinho, “it is sort of like the climate in Bauru.”
“Bauru is nothing like it. I’ve been to Bauru and it never gets hot like this. There is no desert in, near or even far from Bauru,” I replied.
“Oh Bauru gets pretty hot, you just may not have been there on a particularly hot day,” said the defender of Phoenix. From that point on, there was no convincing Leandro otherwise. He was in love with Phoenix.
(Photo: Getty Images)