Well, it looks like the Brazilian Blur will be playing in Brazil after all.
For those with short memories, in June it was rumoured that Raptors guard Leandro Barbosa might opt-out of the final year of his contract with the club to pursue playing opportunities in his native Brazil. The country's economy has flourished in recent years and the quality of its local basketball has improved alongside. While the odds that Barbosa would leave his 2011-2012 salary on the table (worth roughly $7.6-million) next season were slim, and ultimately he chose not to, the lockout has allowed Barbosa a second-chance to play in his home country this winter.
Due to the current NBA lockout, Barbosa has struck a deal with Flamengo, based out of Rio de Janeiro, to play with their club next season. Financial terms are not yet known, but Barbosa reportedly turned down offers in Europe and China to play with Flamengo next season. Unlike the deal signed by Raptor free agent Sonny Weems, however, Barbosa's deal allows him to return to the Raptors if and when the NBA lockout is resolved. It is presumed that if the lockout wipes out the entire 2011-2012 season that Barbosa would become a free agent and his current contract with the Raptors would expire, depriving him of the $7.6-million he is due to make this season.
How this move impacts the Raptors has yet to be seen. Barbosa has proven quite injury prone in the last two yeas, playing in only 44 and 58 games, respectively, and the organization is no doubt concerned about their investment. The chief concern would be that he injures himself in Brazil and then must report back to the club unable to play, but still due no less than a portion of his salary. While this is a reality facing several NBA teams that have seen their players ink deals with non-NBA entities, Barbosa's recent past makes his decision especially troubling, even if the Raptors are in no position to stop him from playing elsewhere during the lockout.
Such a scenario could also significantly impact Barbosa's trade value if and when the lockout ends, as Barbosa is one of the club's most valuable pieces given his skill set and expiring contract. It's hard to tell at this juncture what the Raptors could get for him, exactly, but if he comes back to the NBA hobbled (again) you can bet it won't be a whole heck of a lot, at least not compared to what a fully healthy Barbosa could net the club on the open market.
Of course, if the lockout wipes out the entire season then it's no harm, no foul as far as the Raptors are concerned. Barbosa will be a free agent and the club will presumably maintain some kind of advantageous rights to him, although what (if any) those rights are will be hashed out in the new CBA. His salary will fall off of the books next summer and the Raptors can continue on their path of rebuilding with cheap, young talent and decide at that time if Barbosa fits into their plans or not.
There is no real way to gauge the full impact of this decision until we are closer to the start of the NBA season and we can see if there are any signs that the season will actually be played. Right now Barbosa, Weems and draft pick Jonas Valanciunas are the only Raptors slated to play overseas next season, and time will tell if more players join their ranks. If it remains just those three then Raptors management will probably be able to sleep soundly at night, not too worried about their core investments with the roster. However, if DeMar DeRozan or Ed Davis signs-up with another club, that sentiment could change real quick.
As it is with all of this lockout business: we'll just have to wait and see.