PHOENIX -- Leandro Barbosa, among the fastest players in the
NBA, ran away with the league's sixth man award Monday.
The "Brazilian Blur" received 101 of a possible 127
first-place votes from a media panel.
The honor came one day after Barbosa matched his career playoff
high with 26 points in the Phoenix Suns' 95-87 victory over the Los
Angeles Lakers Sunday in Game 1 of their opening series.
"Give him a soccer ball," the Lakers' Kobe Bryant said when
asked what could be done to stop Barbosa. "Tell him Brazilians
should be playing soccer, not basketball."
Barbosa was a reserve in 62 of the 80 games he played this
season, adding extra speed to the already fast Suns.
"It's a fun team to win so many games," Barbosa said. "Coach
Mike D'Antoni gives me a lot of minutes, and I try to do everything
right so I can stay there on the court. I'm very happy. I've never
been happy like I am right now in my life."
In his fourth NBA season, the 24-year-old Barbosa averaged a
career-high 18.1 points, shooting 43 percent from 3-point range.
The Suns players and coaches were as happy for Barbosa as a
person as they were as a basketball player.
"You get really privileged to coach certain [players] and this is one of
the good guys in the league," D'Antoni said. "I've really had the
privilege of coaching him and watching him mature into a great
player. I think this is the first step of a lot that he can do."
Barbosa credited his one-on-one work with D'Antoni's older
brother Dan, who took the Brazilian under his wing after joining
the coaching staff two seasons ago.
"Nothing would have happened if he wouldn't be here," Barbosa
said. "He helped me a lot. He taught me a lot of things. We have a
really good relationship. I'm happy to have him in my life and
happy for what he's been doing for me."
Dan D'Antoni downplayed his role.
"I think the biggest thing was just being here for him," he
said. "He's such a good guy and he needed someone in his corner.
It just worked out. What I brought maybe was to slow him down a
little bit. He got more sure of himself. That in turn made him a
Barbosa had 578 overall points in the media voting.
"It's good for him and his country," good friend Steve Nash
said, "and he's got an incredibly bright career ahead of him. It's
a lot of fun to see a great guy do so well."
The Suns obtained Barbosa in 2003, selecting him with the 28th
and final first-round pick, acquired in a trade with San Antonio.
Mike D'Antoni credited then-Suns president Bryan Colangelo and the
scouting staff for finding him.
He arrived a skinny, 20-year-old who could not speak English. He
has taught himself the language by listening and asking questions,
Barbosa had speed and a good outside shot, but often played out
of control and seemed to lack confidence. All that has improved the
past two seasons.
In Brazil, he has achieved that coveted one-name status, known
simply as "Leandrino" or "Little Leandro."
Here, he is the "Brazilian Blur."
"That's a really weak nickname," Lakers coach Phil Jackson
said. "Couldn't you call him something better than that? Blur
doesn't even designate how fast this guy is. He's even faster than