Leandro Barbosa took the court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Monday wearing number 28 for his first full practice with his new team. In case you are into useless facts, Barbosa is the first Pacer to wear number 28 and with Jeff Pendergraph rocking the 29 jersey this year, at least one Pacers has now worn each number in the 20's.
It probably feels great for Barbosa to get up and down the court since he has been on the run since the trade went down last Thursday. The Raptors were in Memphis at the time, so Barbosa had to commute via commercial flight to Toronto to tie up loose ends. But as anyone who has flown through Atlanta knows, that's easier said than done.
Barbosa ended up stuck in Atlanta due to airline issues, but with so much uncertainty dominating his thoughts, he had trouble getting his rest while anticipating joining his new team by the weekend.
"I couldn't sleep because I had too much on my mind, " Barbosa said. "Thinking about how it was going to be, if the guys were going to accept me well and the coaches and everything. Then in the morning, like six o'clock I took a flight to Toronto and I had to do a lot of things up there, getting done to just make sure I was clear to come up here. But I'm happy to be here and very excited to start."
Barbosa started on Saturday by settling into his new digs at the Fieldhouse, including his locker between Roy Hibbert and David West. The speedy Brazilian effuses a great energy with his upbeat attitude and pleasant demeanor. As we learned from the fans in Toronto, that energy will probably help him attract many more fans with the Pacers.
Barbosa comes in ready to play any role he's asked, as Frank Vogel planned to begin working with Barbosa on Sunday prior to his first full team practice on Monday.
"Well, I don't know my role," Barbosa said. "But whatever it is, whether I play or not I'm going to try to help my team do my best."
"The one thing I know that I can do is bring energy and speed it up a little bit," Barbosa explained. "I like to run a lot up and down and I'm sure this team is doing that a lot. As much as we can run, I will be the first one to do the best."
Playing the game is the easy part for Barbosa, but fitting in with a new team already rolling through the season will be tough. He played with Lou Amundson in Phoenix and matched up quite a bit with George Hill for the two seasons he was in Phoenix and Hill was in San Antonio. But figuring out his new teammates will take some time.
"The chemistry," said Barbosa about the toughest challenge with the transition. "I don't know, except for Lou, I played with Lou, I know what he does really well. But the other players, I don't really know what they like to do, space on the court and everything, but I talked to the coach and the coach said he's going to help me a lot."
George Hill has earned a heavy role in the Pacers playing rotation but may be impacted most by Barbosa's presence. It may create more minutes at point guard for Hill but really it adds another playmaker to the rotation to put pressure on opposing defenses.
"That's who I guarded," Hill said of his past experience playing against Barbosa. "He gave me a fit chasing him around all of them screens, so I'm happy to be his teammate now and looking forward to playing with him on the court."
Hill also knows what Barbosa can add to the playing rotation.
"We're bringing in a great player," Hill said of his new teammate. "One of the fastest guys in the NBA, can score it in many different ways and also brings a presence defensively so anytime you add a guy of this caliber with his leadership and winning mentality, it is always beneficial to the team."
The timing of Barbosa's arrival couldn't be better. The team needs a little something to shake things up after losing six of their last eight games and getting beaten twice in a row by the New York Knicks. More options for Frank Vogel means more competition for minutes.
"Everybody's got to be on guard now and make sure they're on their game because we're going to be looking at a lot of different combinations," Vogel said upon Barbosa's arrival. "There's jobs to be won and lost in the next few weeks. Our guys have got to make sure they're on their games."
Barbosa's long-term future may not be with the Pacers, but bringing him in to give a boost this season and challenge some younger players to step up their game, will make him a valuable addition in the long run whether he is here or not.