Raptors' Barbosa ready to run

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:48 PM ET

VANCOUVER Once the formalities of reconnecting with some familiar faces are over, itll be business as usual for Leandro Barbosa.

For Barbosa, his entire tenure in the NBA has been with Phoenix, a place he nearly helped lead to an NBA title, a team that took advantage of his unique ability to get up and down the floor, but a team that lost faith in his game when injuries began to mount.

Quick as ever with the ball, as explosive as he has ever been when he gets out in transition, Wednesday night marks the first time Barbosa will face the team that traded him to Toronto this past off-season.

It will be strange, began the shooting guard, who years ago was fittingly branded as the Brazilian Blur. For seven years I played with those guys and even though that team has changed, I still have some best friends on that team.

Its going to be different, but Im looking forward to doing a good job with the Raptors.

Long before tipoff, Barbosa will seek out the likes of Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley to soak in the Sun, so to speak.

Good times will be relived, memories of playing in Vancouver during a similar pre-season backdrop will be replayed, but Barbosa is bent on establishing himself as a Raptor.

Hes not exactly going to be playing with a chip on his shoulder, an edge that doesnt describe his game, but deep down Barbosa knows he wants to prove to Suns management that he didnt deserve fewer minutes in the final stages of his time in Phoenix when the aches and pains grew.

I dont know the reason, added Barbosa when asked about his trade. Maybe because I was hurt so many times and I didnt have a good year, but they knew what I could do for them.

But Im happy here, happy to be a Raptor.

What excites Barbosa the most is the opportunity to regain the form that made him the leagues top sixth man.

When he averaged a career-high 18.1 points in 2006, Barbosa saw plenty of the floor, ran the court like a demon and couldnt be stopped.

What ensued was diminished minutes, a reduced role and a steady decline in virtually every statistical category.

Not only did the Raptors rid themselves of the headache that was Hedo Turkoglu, but more importantly they acquired a veteran piece in Barbosa who still has plenty of game.

The reasons to be pessimistic about the coming regular season are many, but there are encouraging signs, pieces that have the potential to evolve into something pretty explosive.

In Barbosa, the Raptors, who are short in scorers, have a scorer.

There arent many players on the team capable of creating their own shot, but in Barbosa the Raptors have a one-man fast break, a guy who can light it up and is quick enough to force turnovers.

On Saturday, Barbosa twisted an ankle, a setback that prevented him from playing the next day in the teams intra-squad game.

Hes feeling fine and feeling a little like a rookie all over again on a team with plenty of youth and athleticism.

Raptors practices are often described as intense, a gathering that features plenty of running, which are words to Barbosas ears.

People have to remember that Barbosa was part of a Suns team that basically was told to heave a shot within seven seconds, a style of play that came within a suspension from perhaps winning a championship.

When he looks back on his run with the Suns, Barbosa believes the Raptors are actually running more during camp than at any stage during his time with Phoenix.

Thats what makes this opportunity so exciting, beamed Barbosa. I like to run, thats No. 1 for me. Were going to be run and gun, but you have to think defence as well.

Ive never run like this before. Im happy. Im not as fast as I used to be because Im getting older, but I can be fast and I will look for other guys.

Barbosa turns 28 next month, but he has that spring in his step and expresses genuine excitement of what potentially awaits.

The Raptors wont be among the leagues leaders in rebounding, likely will struggle in making stops, but they will play fast and if they can make enough stops they will at least be competitive.

For years, Barbosa played in the shadow of Nash, was asked to be a role player on a deep Suns team.

He now has a chance to assume more and be more of a go-to guy on a more frequent basis.

It all begins Wednesday night against a team that ushered in Barbosas NBA beginning.


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