Former Sixth Man of the Year Leandro Barbosa retires

Former Warriors guard Leandro Barbosa
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Leandro Barbosa grew up in rough conditions in Brazil. So, when he toured the Suns’ arena after going No. 28 pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, Barbosa was smitten. He slept on the floor of the locker room that night.

Barbosa spent the next 14 years savoring his NBA experience.

Now, Barbosa – who won 2007 Sixth Man of the Year a championship ring in 2015 – is retiring.

Barbosa:

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Não sei dizer o momento exato que o basquete entrou na minha trajetória, mas há mais de 20 anos minha vida gira em torno da bola laranja. Qualquer atleta de alto rendimento sabe do que estou falando, mas para a grande maioria das pessoas é importante explicar que isso significa abrir mão de muita coisa por muito tempo, escolhas difíceis, sacrifícios… um preço salgado que é pago pelo gosto doce da vitória. Me considero um vencedor.  Saí da periferia para fazer 850 jogos na maior liga de basquete do planeta e mais de 100 jogos* defendendo o meu país. Quatro Copas do Mundo, dois Jogos Olímpicos, tenho um anel de Campeão da NBA, fui o primeiro brasileiro a receber um prêmio individual na NBA, fui Campeão Brasileiro… Caramba!  Não tem como não me orgulhar. Acredito que consegui jogar em alto nível durante todos esses anos, tanto que me despeço como maior pontuador do último NBB. Estou pronto para um novo começo, uma nova caminhada, de novo com a bola laranja nas mãos. A transição será rápida, como sempre foi.  É uma enorme alegria anunciar meu retorno ao Golden State Warriors, como Player Mentor Coach.Tenho certeza que me sentirei em casa, afinal, foi assim como jogador e tem sido assim desde então. Não poderia estar mais motivado, sei que estarei rodeado de profissionais brilhantes e farei tudo que estiver ao meu alcance para colaborar com o desenvolvimento de jogadores e toda a organização.  Agradeço pelo convite e pela confiança no trabalho que posso desempenhar. For English version in comments..

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Barbosa:

Farewell statement

I couldn’t tell exactly when basketball first crossed my path, but for over 20 years my life has revolved around the orange ball. Any high-performance athlete knows what I’m talking about, but for the vast majority of people it is never enough to stress that this means giving up a lot and doing so for a very long time, difficult decisions and sacrifices must be made along the way. At first, it all seems a hefty price, but it is soon replaced by the sweet taste of both achievement and victory.

I consider myself a winner. I left a rough neighborhood in São Paulo, Brazil, to play 850 games in the largest basketball league on the planet and more than 100 games defending my home country in four FIBA Basketball World Cups, and two Olympic Games. I have also earned a NBA Champion ring. I was the first Brazilian to have ever received an individual award in the NBA, in addition to being a Brazilian Champion. … Oh boy! I can’t help but be proud of my trajectory. I believe I managed to have played at a high level for all these years, so much that I bid farewell as the highest scorer of the last NBB (the New Brazilian Basketball league).

I guess I am ready for a new beginning, a new road, nevertheless I will continue with the good old orange ball. The transition will be quick, as it always has been to me. It is a great joy to announce my return to the Golden State Warriors as a PLAYER MENTOR COACH. I have no doubts I will feel right at home, after all, it was always like that as a player and it has been that way ever since.

I couldn’t be more motivated and engaged. I know that I will be surrounded by brilliant professionals and I will do everything in my power to collaborate with the development of players and with the entire organization.

I am very grateful for the invitation and mainly for the confidence they have placed in the work that I can do.

Barbosa had some very productive years in Phoenix. The guard finished seventh, first, second and 10th in Sixth Man of the Year voting in a four-year span.

Nicknamed “The Brazilian Blur” for his quickness and “Leandrinho” for his small size, Barbosa both attacked the rim aggressively and shot well from outside.

His limitations as a defender and playmaker prevented him from ever becoming a starter. He became a journeyman, playing for the Raptors, Pacers, Suns again, Celtics, Warriors and Suns yet again. Barbosa last played in the NBA in 2017. He had since been playing in Brazil (where he tested positive for coronavirus in April).

Outside Phoenix, Barbosa made his biggest mark in Golden State. He played his best basketball in years in 2015, and his “we gonna be championship” statement proved prophetic.

In his career, Barbosa showed how to focus amid wavering confidence, work hard and develop as a player. His attitude earned him plenty of friends around the league. He could help the Warriors in his new coaching role.

Damian Lillard reportedly targeting Sunday for return from calf strain

Portland Trail Blazers v Cleveland Cavaliers
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How much the Portland Trail Blazers miss Damian Lillard was on clear display Tuesday night in maybe their ugliest loss of the season. The Trail Blazers led by 18 in the second half, Anfernee Simons was on his way to putting up 37, and they were facing a Clippers team without Kawhi Leonard or Paul George. Yet Portland came from ahead to lose. Their defense was bested by the unstoppable offensive weapon that is Nicholas Batum (32 points). Portland just let go of the rope in this one.

The Trail Blazers are now 1-4 with Lillard out with a strained calf (the second time this year). The good news for the Blazers is Lillard is targeting Sunday against the Pacers for a return, reports Chris Haynes of TNT.

Haynes is well connected with the Lillard camp, this is a report that can be trusted.

Portland is trying to keep its head above water and is now 11-10 on the season but has struggled this past week, with games at the Lakers and at the Jazz before Lillard’s targeted return.

Lillard is averaging 26.3 points and seven assists a game this season, showing the explosion we were used to seeing before he was slowed by an abdominal injury that required surgery.

Bulls extended coach Billy Donovan before season started

Denver Nuggets v Chicago Bulls
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Bulls’ fans are not thrilled with a 9-11 team sitting 11th in the East, outside the play-in.

Bulls’ management is not either, but they aren’t laying the blame at the feet of coach Billy Donovan — in fact, they extended him just before the season began, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic and since confirmed by Bulls’ media relations staff to K.C. Johnson NBC Sports Chicago.

Why the extension? Because Donovan and head of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas have a tight relationship, Johnson writes.

Karnišovas’ continued belief in Donovan centers on Donovan’s leadership and communication skills. The two men talk virtually daily and there’s never any misunderstanding in their shared, direct conversation — even when the subject matter becomes difficult.

And not everything has been or continues to be smooth sailing for the Bulls, who have played without Lonzo Ball since January and are off to a 9-11 start in a season with modest outside expectations.

No details about the length of the extension were made public.

This is a decision about stability. Donovan is a solid coach and the front office trusts him. That’s enough to get some extra years on your deal in Chicago.

The Bulls’ issues are not because of Donovan, it’s more a roster that has a “playoff team but not much more” ceiling — a ceiling that is lower this season due to injuries forcing constantly shifting rotations. The Bulls are especially hamstrung without the defense and transition play of Lonzo Ball (still out after another knee surgery). Chicago has defended well this season without Ball (10th in the league), but the offense is bottom 10 and misses the easy buckets Ball helps get with his passing and transition (plus he can knock down some 3s). Donovan has done a respectable job with the players he has.

That is good enough in Chicago to get a few more years.

Three things to know: Luka Doncic looks like an MVP, but can he keep this up?

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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Luka Doncic looks like an MVP, but can he keep this up?

Luka Doncic vs. Stephen Curry.

The schedule makers gave us a showdown of early-season MVP candidates but also two guys who have had to carry a massive load this season, waiting for their teams to come together around them. Curry has gotten more of that lately as Klay Thompson has started to find his legs and some rotation shifts have improved play off the bench.

Luka is still on a Brunson-sized island waiting for help. Tuesday night that island got smaller when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of the Warriors’ Jordan Poole.

That just meant more Doncic, and he reminded everyone why nobody wants to play the Mavericks in the playoffs with a 41-point triple-double (12 rebounds, 12 assists).

Doncic was a force of nature, although Curry had his chance in the final 10 seconds but got called for traveling (a call the Warriors disputed).

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas, but this was the Luka Doncic show.

Doncic has been asked to carry a massive load for Dallas this season. He has a usage rate of 38 through the first quarter of the season, a number that would rank in the top-10 all time (right around 1987 Michael Jordan and 2006 Kobe Bryant).

How long can Doncic do this without starting to wear down? Without risking injury? Sure those other players like Jordan and Kobe got through the entire season, but they also didn’t make the kind of playoff runs Dallas is hoping for. Coming off EuroBasket, Doncic entered this season in the best shape he has ever been in to tip-off an NBA campaign, but there have already been stretches where he has started to look worn down. Then there are nights like Tuesday when he carries the Mavericks to a win and looks unstoppable.

Doncic is young, but asking him to carry this load also puts a ceiling on how good this team can be. Curry is getting that help. Giannis Antetokounmpo is also putting up historic usage percentage numbers this season, but Khris Middleton will return to the Bucks and take on some of that load. The Mavericks touted Christian Wood as an answer, but he is coming off the bench and his defense does not have him in Jason Kidd’s good graces. It’s a one-man show more than ever in Dallas.

If the Mavs want to win in the postseason, it can’t just be the Luka show. But during the regular season, some nights that is enough. At least until he wears down.

2) Damian Lillard to return Sunday, not soon enough for Trail Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers miss Damian Lillard (calf strain, his second this season) — they are 1-4 in the current five-game stretch without him, playing their worst defense of the season. The latest of those losses — a come-from-ahead loss to a Clippers team without Kawhi Leonard or Paul George — was maybe the team’s worst loss of the season. Anfernee Simons put up 37, the Trail Blazers led by 18 in the second half, and yet they collapsed against a team whose best offensive weapon was Nicholas Batum (32 points).

The good news for the Blazers is Lillard is due back on Sunday, reports Chris Haynes of TNT.

If you didn’t watch the late game on TNT, you missed a battle of two teams trying to keep their heads above water while their star (or stars) sit out injured.

Portland is still 11-10 on the season but has struggled this past week. What was ugly about Tuesday’s loss was the team just let go of the rope. This was a winnable game, but when it got tight they let go.

Powell scored 22 points in the fourth quarter and took over to get the 13-9 Clippers another win.

Los Angeles has done it against a soft schedule, but they keep finding ways to win until their stars return. Nobody is sure how good this team ultimately can be, but Tyronn Lue has got his squad defending and finding ways to win until everyone does get right. It’s an impressive coaching job.

3) Karl-Anthony Towns out weeks with calf strain (likely more than a month)

The MRI is in and Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports Towns likely will miss 4-6 weeks.

Not good, but it looked a lot worse when it happened.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his stats are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

The Timberwolves are not off to the start they thought they would be, and if they don’t figure out a way to win without Towns the next month this season could get sideways on them.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavericks still win behind Doncic’s 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.