PHOENIX – For the second time in two weeks, the Phoenix Suns welcomed back a familiar face, dipping into their past with an eye toward their future.
Guard Leandro Barbosa officially signed his two-year contract on Tuesday, rejoining the team where his NBA career began some 13 years earlier.
“Phoenix always be my home. Everything start here,” he said, flanked by GM Ryan McDonough and head coach Earl Watson at his introductory press conference. “My whole career, I played here eight years already. I’m very happy to be back.”
This is Barbosa’s third stint in Phoenix.
Barbosa played his first seven professional seasons from 2003-2010 in Phoenix in addition to one season in 2013-14, averaging 12.4 points on 46.7 percent shooting from the field and 39.6 percent from the 3-point line in 486 games.
His 716 three-point makes ranks third in Suns history, trailing only Steve Nash and Dan Majerle.
Barbosa enjoyed his best season with the Suns in 2006-07, when he won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award by averaging career-highs of 18.1 points and 4.0 assists.
Barbosa’s return follows Jared Dudley’s return.
Barbosa and Dudley, who signed a three-year, $30 million contract on July 8, were teammates for two seasons, including 2009-10, the last time the Suns made the playoffs.
“Like I said with Jared Dudley, the fact that he was a Sun wasn’t the reason we signed him, but the fact that we know him and trust him and know what he can do both on and off the court certainly helped us make our decision,” McDonough said.
As with Dudley, the Suns view the 33-year-old Barbosa as a mentor, someone whose vast playing experience can help guide a very young locker room.
He also brings championship pedigree having spent the past two seasons with Golden State and winning an NBA Championship in 2014-15.
Barbosa holds career averages of 11.0 points and 2.2 assists while playing on five different teams.
“This will be my 14th year on the league. I’m kind of old, but I’m not,” he said, smiling. “I’m looking forward to help the team, to help the young guys; giving my experience like I learned when I was the youngest. I don’t think it’ll be a tough situation for me to get along with the players. I’m easy going, so hopefully I’ll do a good job on that.”
Even from afar, Barbosa said he’s kept close ties on the team that acquired his draft rights from San Antonio in 2003, specifically signaling out the play of rookie Devin Booker.
“He’s a very young player, talented. Really can shoot the ball,” said Barbosa, who will wear uniform No. 19, his number while with the Warriors, as opposed to No. 10, which he wore during his previous two Suns stints.
“I was two years straight up with Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry. Those two guys, they are crazy weapons. Similar with Booker,” Barbosa added. “I’m sure he’s going to be a main guy to help us. I want to just give my experience what I learned with those two players and other players. Hopefully he can put everything he learned with me and Coach to the court.”
Nicknamed the Brazilian Blur, Barbosa joins a crowded Suns backcourt with Booker, Eric Bledsoe, Archie Goodwin, John Jenkins, Brandon Knight and Tyler Ulis.
Barbosa, however, is expected to have a significant role, even though his minutes may not match his importance.
“There’s few players that I’ll always respect, and he’s one of them,” Watson said, referring to Barbosa. “Whenever we competed against each other and a hard foul was committed or we fell down, I always made sure he was OK, and that’s not normally my personality. I just respect this game and who he is. We talk about bringing in champions. He understands what it takes.”
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