Leandro Barbosa wants to rest this summer. And after playing year-round basketball for several years, the Suns want Barbosa to rest, too.
But Brazil, which has missed the last two Olympics in basketball, needs their “Blur” to have a shot at one of the final three spots for the 2010 Olympics at the qualifying tournament, which begins in Athens, Greece, on July 14.
In Sao Paulo, Barbosa has complained of some right knee soreness since the end of the season — going as far as pointing and explaining the injury on a television sports report making the Internet rounds — and saying he needs to return to Phoenix to be re-examined.
“Last year, I was (bothered) for 20 games because of it,” Barbosa said, translated from Portuguese. “I’m certain it’s the game load, many games, playing many minutes. I feel the muscle must be a little tired. I’m a little afraid. ... I’ve never been through a stretch like this and I don’t know what’s going to happen and don’t know what to do.”
The Suns are confident that the problem is a minor one and will require only — you guessed it — a full summer of rest.
But there will be a lot of pressure at home for Barbosa to play. Both he and Denver Nuggets forward Nene (coming off cancer surgery this year) were heavily criticized by basketball icon Oscar Schmidt for both their play and commitment last summer when Brazil struggled and finished fourth at the FIBA Americas Tournament in Las Vegas, forcing them into next month’s last-chance tournament.
As for rumors that Barbosa might be on the trading block following the departure of Mike and Dan D’Antoni, with New York the reported landing spot: dismiss them. The Suns see him as a solid member of their core and are looking forward to seeing his defense improve under the wing of the incoming coaching staff.
And while GM Steve Kerr has said no one on the roster is untradeable, Barbosa is unlikely to be moved.
THE WEEK IN REVIEW
MMA made the jump to network TV this weekend. And as much as this feels like a step forward, this has always proven to be the beginning of the end (wrestling, XFL, etc.) for niche sports. It will take awhile, but look for The Octagon to eventually go the way of the steel-cage match and He Hate Me. It’s the way of the world for those on the fringe. Heck, it’s even getting harder to find a Texas Hold ’Em tournament on the tube these days.
Trained to annoy
I like watching Big Brown run. I hope he wins the Belmont and the Triple Crown in a Secretariat-type runaway. But I’ve had about enough of trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. and his Muhammad Ali-like bravado. When Ali called out his opponents, he had to get in the ring and back it up against his infuriated foes. This guy just flaps his gums and sits in a box on race day while the horse does all the work. A real joker in the sport of kings.
Rocky Mountain malaise
The Rockies are looking for something — anything — to kick-start the 2008 season. They got into Wrigley Field Friday and jumped out to an 8-0 lead against the team with the best record in the National League — and somehow found a way to lose, 10-9. That is good for D-Back fans for two reasons: It keeps the Rockies in the midst of their depression and deludes the Cubs and their fans into thinking that next year has finally arrived.
• Jeff Hornacek appears to be a top candidate to be Doug Collins’ lead assistant in Chicago if he, indeed, takes the job. Word is that while the Suns weren’t overwhelmed with Hornacek during his interview, the Bulls were very impressed.
• Anybody rooting for Jose Canseco in his celebrity boxing match with Mesa native Vai Sikahema? OK, just checking.
• Because the Suns are looking for someone who can help right away, Kansas shooting guard Brandon Rush — a good defender and shooter — has jumped into the conversation for the 15th pick, along with less-experienced players such as Joe Alexander, Donte Green and JaVale McGee.
• The University of Arizona’s run of two straight national championships in softball ended with two quick losses at the Women’s College World Series. But 2-0 ASU has an excellent chance of keeping the title in-state.
• Ex-Coyotes assistant John Tortorella, who led Tampa Bay to a Stanley Cup in 2004, will be fired once Oren Koules, the new owner of the Lightning, takes control in a few weeks. But that’s a stroke of luck for Torts, who won’t be out of work long with Ottawa, San Jose and Toronto all trolling for new coaches.
THE HIGH FIVE
The five worst first-round picks by the Coyotes since moving to Phoenix:
FIVE 1999 (tie): Scott Kelman (15th overall) and Kirill Sanfronov (19th). They combined to play one game for the Coyotes and three in the NHL. Pretty bad day for Bobby Smith.
FOUR 2002: Jakub Koreis (19th overall). After three forgetful seasons in the AHL, he was last seen in Finland.
THREE 1996: Dan Focht (11th overall). Nice guy, really bad defenseman. The Coyotes struck gold at No. 24 that year with Daniel Briere, but fanned on Focht.
TWO 1998: Patrick DesRochers (14th overall). Before David LeNeveu was Phoenix’s goalie of the future, it was DesRochers. But alas, the pride of Penetanguishene, Ontario, played only 11 NHL games.
ONE 2004: Blake Wheeler (fifth overall). I want all that time I wasted watching University of Minnesota hockey games at 2 a.m. back. Wheeler might still play in the NHL, but it won’t be here.