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Is Leandro Barbosa the X Factor Against Los Angeles Lakers?

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 29:  Leandro Barbosa #10 of the Phoenix Suns in action against the Portland Trail Blazers during Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the NBA Playoffs on April 29, 2010 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. The Suns defeated the Blazers 99-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Jess RootCorrespondent IMay 19, 2010

Leandro Barbosa has become a forgotten man in this special season for the Phoenix Suns. Beset this season by injuries, the play of Jason Richardson, and the development of Goran Dragic, it seems an eternity ago that he was the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.

As much as I like Barbosa (and apparently everyone in the world), I have said before that I think that this will be his final season in Phoenix , even though he still has two years remaining on his current contract. Ever since Mike D’Antoni left, his play has declined.

In his defense, last season he had to deal with a new coach, Terry Porter, and the death of his mother. This season he had to deal with an ankle injury to start the year and then wrist surgery. Additionally, because of the Dragic’s play, Barbosa was no longer playing point guard. As a result, he struggled finding his place and producing.

However, in game one against the Lakers, he was one of the few bright spots of an otherwise forgettable game, as he scored 11 points off the bench and showed some of his signature drives to the basket and some long-range shooting.

It reminded me of his play in years past. I was reminded of how he terrorized the Lakers before in the playoffs. Previous to Monday’s game, Barbosa averaged 22 points per game in his last seven playoff games against the Lakers, against several of the same backcourt players (Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, and Koba Bryant).

Barbosa poses a huge matchup problem for almost everyone. He can get to the rim. There are few as quick as he is with the ball. He can shoot the three.

Everyone knows how important Jason Richardson is for Phoenix. But for this series, I believe that Leandro is the X factor.

Barbosa needs to be aggressive and a leader on the floor with the second unit. He can score. If he is productive enough, coach Alvin Gentry will keep him on the floor longer and play alongside Steve Nash, with whom in his career he plays at his highest level.

A frequent commenter on Fanster.com, B Cray Z, suggests in almost every post that the Suns should “start and also finish with LB.” I am not saying that I agree exactly, but for this series (and really only this series), a little more LB just might be a good thing. Channeling a little bit of D’Antoni’s Amare and four shooters for some periods of time might help a little.

After what happened in game one, it couldn’t really hurt, could it?

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