Barbosa runs away with Sixth Man Award

Updated: April 23, 2007, 9:11 PM ET
Associated Press

PHOENIX -- Leandro Barbosa, among the fastest players in the NBA, ran away with the league's sixth man award Monday.

NBA Sixth Man Award voting
Leandro Barbosa
Voting for the 2006-07 NBA Sixth Man Award as selected by a nationwide panel of 127 sportswriters and broadcasters. Voting is on a 5-3-1 basis:
Leandro Barbosa, Suns 101 24 1 578
Manu Ginobili, Spurs 18 50 29 269
Jerry Stackhouse, Mavs 7 40 55 210
David Lee, Knicks -- 3 13 22
Kyle Korver, 76ers 1 2 8 19
Antonio McDyess, Pistons -- 2 11 17
Corey Maggette, Clippers -- 1 3 6
Luther Head, Rockets -- -- 4 4
Chucky Atkins, Grizzlies -- 1 1 4
Matt Harpring, Jazz -- 1 1 4
Josh Childress, Hawks -- 1 -- 3
Chris Duhon, Bulls -- 1 -- 3
Jose Calderon, Raptors -- 1 -- 3
J.R. Smith, Nuggets -- -- 1 1

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 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 [players] 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."

Winners over the years
Leandro Barbosa follows Memphis' Mike Miller as the NBA's super sub. Here's a look back at some of the NBA Sixth Man Award winners:
Player Team Year
Leandro Barbosa Suns '06-07
Mike Miller Grizzlies '05-06
Ben Gordon Bulls '04-05
Antawn Jamison Mavs '03-04
Bobby Jackson Kings '02-03
Corliss Williamson Pistons '01-02
Aaron McKie 76ers '00-01
Rodney Rogers Suns '99-00
Darrell Armstrong Magic '98-99
Danny Manning Suns '97-98
John Starks Knicks '96-97
-- Source:

Dan D'Antoni downplayed his role.

"I think the biggest thing was just being here for him," he said. "He's such a good guy and he needed someone in his corner. It just worked out. What I brought maybe was to slow him down a little bit. He got more sure of himself. That in turn made him a better player."

Barbosa had 578 overall points in the media voting.

San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili was second with 269 points and Dallas guard Jerry Stackhouse was third with 210.

Barbosa is the fourth Suns' player to win the award, joining Eddie Johnson (1988-89), Danny Manning (1997-98) and Rodney Rogers (1999-00).

"It's good for him and his country," good friend Steve Nash said, "and he's got an incredibly bright career ahead of him. It's a lot of fun to see a great guy do so well."

The Suns obtained Barbosa in 2003, selecting him with the 28th and final first-round pick, acquired in a trade with San Antonio. Mike D'Antoni credited then-Suns president Bryan Colangelo and the scouting staff for finding him.

He arrived a skinny, 20-year-old who could not speak English. He has taught himself the language by listening and asking questions, he said.

Barbosa had speed and a good outside shot, but often played out of control and seemed to lack confidence. All that has improved the past two seasons.

In Brazil, he has achieved that coveted one-name status, known simply as "Leandrino" or "Little Leandro."

Here, he is the "Brazilian Blur."

"That's a really weak nickname," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Couldn't you call him something better than that? Blur doesn't even designate how fast this guy is. He's even faster than that."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press