Leandro Barbosa always wanted to stay in Phoenix. The only question was whether the Suns would make it worth his while. They answered that question Friday, signing Barbosa to a five-year, $33 million contract extension that begins after the 2007-08 season. The five-year extension is the maximum allowed by NBA rules. PHOENIX (AP) — Leandro Barbosa always wanted to stay in Phoenix. The only question was whether the Suns would make it worth his while. They answered that question Friday, signing Barbosa to a five-year, $33 million contract extension that begins after the 2007-08 season.
The five-year extension is the maximum allowed by NBA rules. “The Suns really like me,” Barbosa said at a U.S. Airways Center news conference. “And I like being here.” After undergoing a physical, Barbosa said he had called home to tell his family that the deal was official. “I guess right now my mom (Ivete) has been crying on my brother’s shoulder,” Barbosa said. The Suns, who have reached the Western Conference finals each of the last two seasons, believe the 6-foot-3, 188-pound Barbosa is a critical part of the formula that has made them one of the NBA’s elite teams. Barbosa started only 11 games last year, but club officials think his potential is enormous. “Leandro Barbosa represents everything that we’ve built our team on — character, speed, three-point shooting,” said Suns vice president of basketball operations David Griffin. “He’s really the epitome of our team’s style of play.”
Barbosa’s speed makes him a tough matchup for opposing defenses. But he became a more complete player last year under the tutelage of assistant coach Dan D’Antoni, the brother of Suns head coach and general manager Mike D’Antoni. Barbosa’s scoring average leaped from 7.0 points to 13.1 in the regular season, and in the playoffs he averaged 14.2 points, up from 2.5 the previous year. He made his biggest contribution with the Suns facing elimination in the first round against the Los Angeles Lakers. He scored a career-high 26 points in the Suns’ decisive Game 7 victory. One game earlier, Barbosa scored 22 points as an emergency starter in place of suspended guard Raja Bell. Barbosa shot a combined 17-of-21 from the floor in the two games. Barbosa shot 48.1% from the floor and 44.4% from beyond the three-point line, best in his three NBA seasons. Barbosa signed the extension after flying to Phoenix from Brazil, where he had been training with the Brazilian national team. Barbosa will play for his country in this month’s world basketball championships in Japan. A month or so after the tournament in Japan, Barbosa will rejoin his Suns teammates for training camp. And he’ll no longer have to worry about whether he fits in the team’s plans. “I’m very happy,” Barbosa said. “It’s a dream. It’s another dream to work for a championship.” Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.