Leandro Barbosa is a key part of the Phoenix Suns. Seems like it has always been so, doesn't it? But boy, it almost didn't happen that way.
Don't forget that San Antonio drafted Barbosa in 2003. The Spurs then traded the Brazilian to Phoenix for a conditional 2005 first-round pick. That pick ended up going to New York (as a major component of the package that netted Nazr Mohammed for San Antonio) and became David Lee.
Sources tell me that when the Seattle SuperSonics selected Luke Ridnour 14th in 2003, some people in the Sonic draft room were pulling for Barbosa instead. Barbosa, a relative unknown who had played only in Brazil, slipped to 28th.
Blazer broadcaster Mike Barrett says the Suns were ready to deal Barbosa for a second-round pick in the summer of 2005: "I'm not sure if many fans realize how close Barbosa was to becoming a Trail Blazer ... Basically, if the trade of Shareef Abdur-Rahim to New Jersey hadn't fallen through at the last minute (the Nets said he flunked his physical) the Blazers would have used the second-round pick they would have gained in that trade, to trade to the Suns for Barbosa. The deal was basically done, and then everything fell apart when the Nets voided the Abdur-Rahim trade."
Why does all this matter? In part, because it's a good opportunity for me to quote a funny phrase, which is coming up. But mainly because the Suns and Spurs are two of the three teams locked in a death match for supremacy of the Western Conference. TrueHoop reader Dylan emails to explain:
The Suns have brought in Diaw and Barbosa for cheap, and Barbosa is Ginobili's best competition for sixth-man award. Stoudemire is healthy, Nash is a superstar at the peak of his game and they are absolutely contenders.
Barbosa, though, really has developed and is now becoming a serious factor. He goes from one end of the court to the other in a blink. He shoots better than 40% from three, hits 47% overall and shoots 83% from the line. He can attack and get to the rack as fast as anyone in the league, and can finish. At 6-4, 188, he's Tony Parker with 10 more pounds and maybe even faster ...
The Spurs are still good enough to beat this Suns team, I believe, though that's no guarantee at all from my mouth. The Suns wouldn't surprise me if they stomped their way to a title this year.
But if that does or does not happen, the Spurs and Suns will know that this trade in 2003 ended up being a whopper-whizz-banger-danger.
(Right here I'm asking myself, did I, subconsciously, write this entire post just so I could quote the phrase "whopper-whizz-banger-danger?" Upon reflection, the answer is probably "yes," and I'm OK with that.)
Here's why you need to know about it now: when the Suns next face the Spurs in the playoffs, which could be soon, at some point Barbosa will get really hot. That's just how it goes with him. And when he does, I promise you those TV commentators will make a huge fuss about how the Spurs once had this long, fast, deadeye shooter, but dealt him to a competitor on the rise.
When that happens, you'll be in a position to take a slow pull on whatever you're drinking, turn to your friends, and declare, "I always knew that deal was a real whopper-whizz-banger-danger."
Also, just for fun, here's an interesting story from the archives about some behind-the-scenes goings on during the summer Leandro Barbosa was drafted.