Leandro Barbosa Set to Take Over Ball Hogs Captain Role
By John Krolik, @krolikjohn April 29, 2022
The “White Mamba,” fan favorite Brian Scalabrine, is not expected to return to the Ball Hogs for the upcoming season. Sources say he’ll either go back into the draft pool or look for a different job within the BIG3, possibly a broadcasting role. After leading the team for four seasons, Scalabrine understood that the team needed to be more athletic, and that started with replacing himself as captain – a final gesture of unselfishness from a player who never managed to cultivate an ego after playing in the NBA for 11 seasons and being on the roster of the 2008 NBA Champion Celtics. One can’t help but wish him the best in his next endeavor, and any BIG3 fan has to hope he’ll stay around the league in some capacity, which it looks like he will.
His successor will be more than worthy. Leandro Barbosa is set to be named as the next captain of the Ball Hogs. The team has struggled throughout the history of the BIG3. They were the worst team in the league in each of the BIG3’s first three seasons, and went just 3-5 last season. They have yet to make the playoffs or post a .500 season. Regardless of all that, Barbosa seems confident, and he has a plan for how to make a turnaround happen. First of all, Barbosa said he’s looking to complete the roster with “A big man who can protect the rim and a 6-7ish guy who can provide versatility.”
Barbosa continually emphasized how he and Head Coach Rick Barry envision the team will play next season. In short, they’re looking for the Ball Hogs to have the least appropriate team name in the league. Barbosa envisions constant ball movement and man movement, with a minimum of dribbling and set plays, and each player being ready, willing, and able to make the extra pass as soon as they touch the ball.
Barbosa was mostly known as a scorer during his NBA days. The “Brazilian Blur,” who won the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2007 and an NBA Championship with the Warriors in 2015, averaged 10.6 points and only 2.1 assists over the course of his 14-year NBA career.
He definitely played with serious speed. According to The FreeDarko MacroPhenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac, published in 2008, Barbosa scored nearly 40% of his points in the first seven seconds of the shot clock. That was the highest proportion of baskets scored in the first seven seconds of the clock of any member of the famous “Seven Seconds or Less” Suns, and in his Sixth Man of the Year Award season he scored 90 buckets within three seconds of the Suns gaining possession. The ability to play fast is certainly an advantage in the BIG3, where the 14-second shot clock doesn’t allow much time for indecision.
Barbosa’s game has changed since his NBA days. To be clear, he was no slouch when it came to putting the ball in the net. He averaged 21.1 points per game, second only to Joe Johnson, and tied Johnson for the league-high in three-pointers made with 16. And while Johnson shot 32% from beyond the arc, Barbosa and his signature two-handed flick shot allowed him to shoot 43.2% from deep. He even made two shots from the four-point circle for good measure.
However, passing has arguably become the strength of Barbosa’s game. He was the best playmaker in the BIG3 last season. He averaged a league-high 4.3 assists per game, and was second only to Jason Richardson in assist-to-turnover ratio. He did all of this while still adjusting to the league – according to him, the hardest players to guard and defend in the BIG3 were “all of them.”
When speaking to Barbosa, the main inspirations for his pass-crazed vision for the Ball hogs seem to come from two places. The first is his experience with the Suns and Warriors, who both led the league in assist ratio when Barbosa was playing for them. The Warriors, who Barbosa is currently an assistant coach for, had the second-highest assist ratio in the league this season. The second inspiration behind Barbosa’s pass-crazed vision comes from soccer, the most popular sport in Barbosa’s native Brazil. (In fact, Barbosa currently plays soccer once a week.)
In fact, those Suns and Warrior teams were themselves inspired by soccer. In Phoenix, noted soccer aficionado Steve Nash said he wanted the team to play the “Tiki-Taka” style of Pep Guardiola’s famous FC Barcelona style, and when he arrived in Golden State Steve Kerr sent his team the same message, even going so far as to show the team clips of FC Barcelona at work. “Tiki-Taka” revolves around short, rapid passes, with a minimum of dribbling. As Andres Iniesta said, when playing Tiki-Taka a player has three responsibilities: receive the pass, immediately pass to a teammate, and then move without the ball into open space to offer a teammate an opportunity to pass it to him.
Barbosa also noted the influence of Futsal, a fast-paced, 5-on-5 style of soccer extremely popular in Brazil which Barbosa played growing up. Futsal is played on a hard court, and puts a premium on improvisation, creativity, and technique – all qualities that are extremely useful in the Fireball 3 format. Barbosa noted that Futsal teams “pass like crazy,” and also noted that Futsal players tend to develop tremendous ball control.
Will Barbosa and Barry’s vision of a Ball Hogs team that barely lets the ball hit the floor come to fruition? Will it tear apart BIG3 defenses the way Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona squads tore through the best teams in Europe? With Barbosa’s scoring and playmaking leading the charge, will the Ball Hogs be able to go .500 or better for the first time in the history of the league, or even make the playoffs? Only time will tell, but Leandro and Co. certainly seem to have the right mindset to take their team out of the cellar and into contention.