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Friday, May 18, 2007
Rolling With Leandro: Gregory Dole's Barbosa File, Part Six


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, and fifth parts were published in recent days. There are more to come. When we left them, Barbosa and Dole are convinced they are about to miss a flight to work out for the Boston Celtics, and Barbosa's hip is giving him trouble.

In fact, we arrive at the airport with few minutes to spare. It turns out not to be a problem. All flights have been delayed for hours because of thunderstorms.

At the airport, we pile back some crap food. It is horrible but we are hungry. A girl walks by as we eat. Leandrinho and I turn to each other and he says in Portuguese, "that does not look like an American butt."

The girl turns around and says in Brazilian Portuguese, "that's because, you shameless men, I am from Brazil." But she's laughing.

She and Leandrinho get into discussion about the general lack of what they call deliciousness in American women, mostly stemming from what they decide is a flat-butt gene in American DNA. "They are all breasts up here in the USA. Big, huge breasts. Like big dairy cows. But no butts. I don't understand it. I don't even understand how they manage to stand up straight," exclaimed the woman.

She has never heard of Leandrinho and doesn't really believe that he was trying out for the NBA. After several attempts at convincing her that this is a legitimate story, I give up.

Leandrinho is in pain. His hip is stiffening up. The ice is not helping. I do not know what we are going to do tomorrow in Boston. The souls of the dead are going to need to come through big time on this one if Leandrinho is to have a hope in hell of competing tomorrow.

We arrive in Boston at 3 am. It is Saturday. A nice fellow from the Celtics staff has stayed around until the early hours of the morning to give us a lift to the hotel near the Celtics practice facility. I am surprised by the diligence. I tell the Celtics guy that Leandrinho won't be able to go at 9 am. He is exhausted and in pain. It hardly seems fair to ask him to suit up and go through a workout under these conditions. Leandrinho pleads with me to convince the Celtics staffer as we drive to hotel. I try every which way to communicate the gravity of the situation, but the fellow is not having any of it.

You know, we are going to be in Boston on Sunday as well. Is there any chance we can have a workout rescheduled? I ask.

Leandro BarbosaResponds the Celtics man: We can't do much as far as rescheduling. All the owners are going to be at the facility tomorrow to see Leandrinho. This is a big workout for us. Everyone here loves Leandrinho.

Wow. This is more complicated than I thought. The Celtics are taking this workout seriously. In the morning, I would find out more.

Sharing a double room at the hotel, Leandrinho and I go through the current predicament. You know, I really can't work out. My hip is screwed up, comments Leandrinho.

You dont think you could test it out tomorrow, you know sort of like you did in Memphis after having warmed it up for a while, I gently ask.

No chance. I am done, says Leandrinho.

I would worry about it, but at this point, I can't keep my eyes open. I drift off into a place far away from the Celtics, the NBA, the draft and the constant anxiety of what will happen on June 26.

Waking up to the sound of the phone ringing, I quickly realize we are behind schedule. The Celtics staffer is in the lobby of the hotel already. I pull Leandrinho off his bed and help him get ready. He is not in the state of mind or body to tackle an NBA workout. What am I going to tell the Celtics? I dont bother opening up the topic of Leandrinho working out as we drive to the facility. It hardly seems worth it. I will wait to face the music once we get into the gym.

The Celtics facility sits next door to a fitness club, in a wooded area some miles outside of Boston. Its a beautiful spot. Just inside the facility there is an homage to Red Auerbach. The Celtics organization is living history. So many of the games greats were a part of this team and you feel it as soon as you enter Celtic-dom.

The way Leandrinho is feeling, it doesn't seem like he will be joining the ongoing history of the green and white.

We meet some more Celtics cronies. They are enthused at the sight of Leandrinho. These people love him. I assume that they too drunk the kool-aid, so to speak, of the legendary Leandrinho videotape. Its great to meet you. I have become a big fan of yours. Weve been watching your tape the last few days, says one of them.

I jump at the opportunity and report that the Sonics loved the Brazilian, slightly exaggerating by saying that he taught Kirk Hinrich a lesson up in Seattle. Seeing as the Celtics draft after the Sonics, I notice the assembled Celtics people take notes. Theyll probably be working the phones to speak with their connections to find out if in fact the Sonics love Leandrinho.

Well I hope he falls to us at 16, says another Celtics crony. What is going on here? Is this guy serious? Are the Celtics that keen on the kid? Meeting Danny Ainge confirms that the Celtics are mad for Leandrinho. Once again, I find myself getting a kick out of meeting an NBA legend. Once again, Leandrinho has never heard of him.

Ainge pleads for Leandrinho to work out. The kid decides to give it a whirl. However the Celtics trainer has other ideas. As he puts the Brazilian through a stretching routine, he says that there is next to no chance that the kid can go today.

A few minutes later, having given up on trying to stretch out Leandrinho's hip, the trainer leads us up some stairs to a stationary bicycle. Struggling to even climb stairs, the prospects look dim. He can't even pedal the bike. Ainge joins us but stares out onto the practice court and the team owners below. I might be wrong, but it looks as though Ainge is saddened by the fact that the workout is not going to happen.

Skipping forward a few more hours, we are back at the hotel. Leandrinho is crying. While he displayed no emotion during the attempted workout, he breaks down over his run of bad luck. His damned hip won't cooperate with his dreams. Things are never as bad as they seem, however at this moment in time things do look pretty poor. We get on the phone with Arturo. In true military spirit, he urges his younger brother to push on with the words of we came, we saw, we conquered. Lots of crying later, the group is reinvigorated to push on.

We are once again in Cleveland. Getting Leandrinho's hip back to work is priority number one an
d once again Arturo is on the phone with Ivete in Brazil. I am not privy to the discussion, but within a few minutes, Arturo is in the kitchen cooking up home remedies. I decide to leave.

When I come back, there is a big pot of popcorn and a carton of eggs. Arturo asks me for a live chicken. In the state that I am in, I decide not to ask questions. If we need a live chicken to make things happen, so be it. I have always had a soft side for homeopathic medical solutions, modern science be damned. If a live chicken can help mend a hip, I am all in baby! With that, I head out the door and catch a train to Clevelands famous West Side Market as scenes from the film "Bull Durham" dance through my head.

(Photograph: Getty Images)