The Toronto Raptors may get an unexpected break as they try to remake their team in the wake of a 22-60 season.
Brazilian veteran Leandro Barbosa is considering opting out of the final year of a contract scheduled to pay him $7.6-million for 2011-12.
According to his brother Arturo, the shooting guard is receiving feelers from some top club teams at home who want to bring back the top Brazilian player of his generation.
"The situation is this: it would not be responsible of me as his brother to not consider the Brazil option," said Arturo Barbosa. "Leandro loves Toronto he loves the fans and the relationships with everybody, but business is business. An athlete's career is short and there are a lot of sponsorship opportunities [in Brazil]especially with the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016."
The leading candidate for Barbosa's services, apparently, is Flamengo, Brazilian basketball champions in 2008 and 2009 who play in Rio de Janeiro. The club's soccer side recently brought soccer star Ronaldinho back to the fold to finish his career after his run in Europe.
Another possibility is the Brazilian club Corinthians.
With a growing economy Brazils national basketball league has grown in stature and professionalism in recent years and is better positioned to bring home top players who have typically played in Europe if not the NBA.
Raptors president Bryan Colangelo said he just learned of the possibility of Barbosa leaving in recent days: "They are weighing options," he said via text message from Europe where he's scouting draft prospects. "There is no word from the agents on that yet."
Should Barbosa leave his option and return to Brazil it could open up the rebuilding Raptors' options considerably, both by providing another roster spot and shaving more money off the Raptors salary obligations, already slated to drop from $69-million on the books last season to about $34-million for nine players - though that number will rise as the team adds a draft pick and fills out its roster.
The 28-year-old averaged 13.3 points on 45 per cent shooting coming of the bench last season in Toronto, though injuries limited him to just 58 games after coming to the Raptors from Phoenix in an off-season trade.
With a lockout a possibility in the NBA, the player knows as the Brazilian blur may have a back-up plan.
"Adam Smith's invisible hand will do it's job. That will determine where we will go," said Arturo Barbosa via e-mail. "Leandro loves to compete and this competition will be based on a competition in the markets."