Suns' Barbosa wins Sixth Man Award

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

PHOENIX -- Leandro Barbosa, among the fastest players in the NBA, ran away with the league's Sixth Man Award on Monday.

The "Brazilian Blur" received 101 of a possible 127 first-place votes from a media panel.

The honor came one day after Barbosa matched his career playoff high with 26 points in the Phoenix Suns' 95-87 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday in Game 1 of their opening series.

"Give him a soccer ball," the Lakers' Kobe Bryant said when asked what could be done to stop Barbosa. "Tell him Brazilians should be playing soccer, not basketball."

Barbosa was a reserve in 62 of the 80 games he played this season, adding extra speed to the already fast Suns.

"It's a fun team to win so many games," Barbosa said. "Coach Mike D'Antoni gives me a lot of minutes, and I try to do everything right so I can stay there on the court. I'm very happy. I've never been happy like I am right now in my life."

In his fourth NBA season, the 24-year-old Barbosa averaged a career-high 18.1 points, shooting 43 percent from 3-point range.

The Suns players and coaches were as happy for Barbosa as a person as they were as a basketball player.

"You get really privileged to coach certain guys and this is one of the good guys in the league," D'Antoni said. "I've really had the privilege of coaching him and watching him mature into a great player. I think this is the first step of a lot that he can do."

Barbosa credited his one-on-one work with D'Antoni's older brother Dan, who took the Brazilian under his wing after joining the coaching staff two seasons ago.

"Nothing would have happened if he wouldn't be here," Barbosa said. "He helped me a lot. He taught me a lot of things. We have a really good relationship. I'm happy to have him in my life and happy for what he's been doing for me."

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