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Leandro Barbosa: "I have a tough time making baskets right now"
by Senad Mustafic / May 17, 2007

This was a very close game tonight (Wednesday). The Suns had several chances to win it. What are your thoughts about the game?

Leandro Barbosa: It is sad, you know… We did a great job during the whole game, and in the first half especially. Everybody on our team had a lot of energy. I thought that we were going to win, but we lost. We only had six guys in our rotation. It is very tough when you don’t have Boris and Amare. Both of them are very effective for our team. The Spurs had ten guys in their rotation and they are a very experienced team. It was tough, but we have to stay positive and believe that we can win again.

It really did seem that you guys had a lot of energy, especially in the first half. Was the team extra motivated to play this game?

LB: I think we were. That is probably why in the first half we did such a great job. I think that maybe in the second half we were a little tired. I was personally struggling, not because of being tired, but just struggling. It is tough that we lost. We had the game in our hands and then lost it in last couple of minutes.

In what aspects of the game did you miss Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw the most?

LB: Amare is a really aggressive guy. He helps us on the rebounds and can make his way to the basket. He is a very tough guy to guard. Boris can find people with his assists and help with rebounding and on defense. They are both very important players for the team. We didn’t have them tonight and that was bad for us.

The pace of the game tonight was very slow. At times, it seemed like you guys didn’t mind that. At times, your offensive possessions went deep into the shot clock…

LB: You know, on a couple occasions we didn’t play the way we should. A couple times we didn’t do that great of a job on defense, and they scored easily. So we had to slow down a little bit. A couple times we did a great job in the half court. But everybody knows that San Antonio is a great half-court team, with so many great defensive players. We played a little slower. It happens. It is what it is…

Do you feel Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw will bring a lot of energy to the next game?

LB: I know that in the next game they will be very hungry. They are going to help us do the best that we can and everything should be fine.

Do you think that the Spurs’ defense is, to use Amare’s words, “dirty” in comparison to other teams?

LB: I think that Spurs, Detroit and Chicago… I think those teams play really tough defense. They play the best defense in the league.

You are playing a bit slower in the Spurs series, compared to the series against the Lakers. What are the Spurs doing to keep you in check?

LB: They know that I am an aggressive guy and that I always want to attack the basket. Also, I have been struggling to score. But I don’t know... Hopefully my touch will come back and shots will start going in.

This year you were named the Sixth Man of the Year. How much does that mean for your confidence and how much does that recognition mean for your career?

LB: It means a lot. The award is very special for me. Of course everybody knows, and I have been telling this to everybody: nothing would have happened if coach D’Antoni wasn’t here to help me like he has and still is. I am very happy to have his support. I still have to work on a lot of things to happen for me, for the team and my career. The confidence is there. I just have a tough time making baskets right now.

Everybody here, including the coaching staff, the fans, employees at the US Airways Center... Everybody loves you. How did you manage to charm all of them?

LB: I love them too, you know. Everything that they do for us is really great. I always try to be nice with everybody. I am very happy to be here. They love me and I love them, too. It is great for me. I am very happy.

Latin American charm, ha?

LB: Yeah… (laughs).

Do you plan to play for Brazilian National Team this summer?

LB: Yes. We will have the Pan-American Championship in Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro. After that we will have the qualifications for the Olympics in Las Vegas. Both should be good tournaments.

How do you find energy to play for the National Team after a full season in the NBA with lots of running and workouts?

LB: Well, I just love this game. When you love something that you are doing then you get a lot of energy for it. I think it’s all about energy, and especially when you have a heart… I love basketball, you know… I never want to stop playing and always want a basketball in my hands.

So what do you think about all those players who refuse to play for their National Teams over the summer?

LB: I don’t know about them. I think that it is great to play for the National Team. And, there are a lot of other players who want to defend their country [in international tournaments]. And I want to do the same thing.

Going back to the NBA playoffs, what is the Suns’ game plan for the Game 6 of the series?

LB: Just play the same way as we have been playing: with a lot of heart, effort, energy. We have to stay positive. We defeated them there one time. It was tough, but we did it. So if we did it one time, we can do it again.

Can we count on seeing you here, at the US Airways Center for Game 7?

LB: Yes, yes!

Senad Mustafic is a Phoenix correspondent of Sportska Centrala, a sports news agency from Serbia

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