Barbosa rounding into form for Raptors

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:55 PM ET

TORONTO - When he was asked to play the point, Leandro Barbosa never made a point of complaining.

When people wondered aloud or privately about an errant jump shot, Barbosa never cited injury as a reason for his wayward heaves.

When the pain in his shooting wrist becomes intolerable, Barbosa seldom complains.

Life in Raptorland, at times, has been a blur for the ultra-quick guard, who struggled to find his stroke during the early season, filled in at point guard when Jarrett Jack was jettisoned to New Orleans, couldn’t get minutes in a crowded wing spot and has all the while put off having surgery to repair a damaged wrist to his shooting (right) hand.

“For now, I’m happy because my body is okay,’’ began Barbosa on Tuesday, knowing full well that he’s not entirely okay.

When the Raptors needed a lift on Sunday afternoon against Sacramento, it was Barbosa’s clutch shooting in the fourth quarter that sparked Toronto, a stretch that saw the veteran score 11 points.

Whatever gains the Raptors are able to make in the short-term future, a lot will depend on many factors.

At the top of the list is the team’s ability to defend, but after a while it should dawn on even the most uneducated fan that this team will be life and death to stop opponents.

Equally obvious is Barbosa’s presence and versatility, even as Sonny Weems is set to make his return to the rotation.

The way Barbosa has been playing of late, finding a nice comfort level with Jose Calderon by playing off the ball, there’s no way the Raptors should decrease Barbosa’s minutes.

What remains to be seen is just how long Barbosa’s tenure in Toronto lasts.

What should be noted is just how good a legitimate scorer would look on a championship-contending team who can come off the bench, ignite a run and ultimately win a game, which is what Barbosa is capable of doing.

When next month’s trade deadline comes around, GM Bryan Colangelo has some enticing chips in the form of a $12.2 million trade exception, the expiring contracts of Reggie Evans and Peja Stojakovic.

If a team comes along and makes Colangelo an offer he simply can’t refuse, then he simply must trade Barbosa.

At no point has Barbosa’s stock been this high, a player who is getting better even though his troublesome wrist hasn’t.

Incredibly, Barbosa had no clue the ligaments in his wrist were damaged when a cyst was surgically removed last season, a procedure that allowed him to play for the Suns as Phoenix made its run to the Western final.

He became more aware of the condition this off-season when the Raptors wrapped up their pre-season slate in Montreal against the New York Knicks in a game that saw Barbosa aggravate his wrist.

When he makes an awkward move while sleeping, when he catches the ball to make a play or attempt a shot, there’s pain and a constant reminder that surgery awaits Barbosa.

“If I have surgery, I’ll be out four months,’’ Barbosa conceded. “Just knowing that allows me to go out there and forget about the pain, but it’s there.”

Twice before practice and after every workout, Barbosa heads to the trainers’ room, where he receives treatment that involves ice, steam, ultra-sound and lasers.

“Whatever they got to do to make the pain go down,’’ he said. “I do a lot of hand therapy.”

Imagine the impact Barbosa would have if he were completely healthy, capable of handling the ball and releasing his jumper without any discomfort.

Admittedly, Barbosa has been forced to adjust his release in the wake of the pain.

When you watch him heave a shot, it looks more like a shot put than a clinical release.

“My shot is all about the snap,’’ Barbosa added. “I’ve had to change my release and my form is not pretty.

“I’ve had to make changes to feel comfortable and sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t. I just have to be patient.”

He’s only recently been rewarded for his patience.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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