It appears that the signing of Leandro Barbosa is the first step toward filling some pretty big shoes for the next several weeks.

ESPN's Mark Stein reported today that Eric Bledsoe will undergo surgery to repair his knee, and will be out indefinitely.

Bledsoe injured the game against the Clippers on Dec. 30, although he returned to that game. The knee swelled up, however, keeping him out of the last four games. Now he is going to be out for much longer.

John Gambadoro is reporting that the injury is a torn meniscus.

Just heard from another reliable source it is a meniscus tear for Bledsoe that will require surgery.

— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) January 9, 2014

Of course, it's important to get it fixed now, and it's best to miss time while the Suns face their easiest month of games to date. After playing one of the league's toughest schedules so far, the Suns now get to see all those East teams over the coming weeks.

In the meantime, the Suns front office has rightly decided that Ish Smith is not a guaranteed, shut-the-door long term answer as the third guard in a four-guard lineup (behind Goran Dragic and Gerald Green, ahead of rookie Archie Goodwin).

So, Leandro Barbosa is a smart pickup. While he doesn't know the offense - make no mistake, this is a totally different offense than the Nash days - he does know how to play with Goran Dragic and Channing Frye, three-fifths of the Suns much-loved second unit from the 2010 WCF run. All we need now is Louis Amundson to come walking (err, riding) through that door.

Barbosa may have only made one shot against the Timberwolves in his second Suns debut, but he did flash his signature speed and got to the basket almost at will. If nothing else, he provides more stability in the lineup.

But he's no Eric Bledsoe. Neither is Ish Smith. If Bledsoe is gone for the foreseeable future, the Suns will have to pull another rabbit out of that hat to stay in the playoff chase.

The Phoenix Suns’ optimism for improvements coming as an eastern road swing continues is all but shot. In fact, a major reinforcement won’t be coming for a while. ESPN’s Marc Stein...

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The NBA All-Star Game history is rife with snubs, stupid fan votes, and other general silliness. Normally, I don't care. This year, I can see the purple and gold sh*t train coming and I'm pissed!

We all know Goran Dragic should be in the All-Star Game. I don't need to convince you. You've watched him play this year.

Yes, I'm the most bias writer on the planet when it comes to Dragic. I've loved the kid guy since he was a rookie. I defended him when he was being called "Tragic" and losing time to Sean Singletary. I railed against Lance Blanks for stupidly trading him AND A PICK to the Rockets for Aaron Brooks. I was thrilled when Robert Sarver stepped in and brought Goran back.

More NBA All-Star Game Silliness

I love the kid guy as a person and a player and it's been a JOY to watch his progress and see him turn into an ALL-STAR PLAYER.

On the flip side we have Kobe Bryant. I don't "hate" Kobe. I respect his career and his talent. I just hate everything he stands for from the smug look on his jutting jaw to the the Los Angeles Lakers uniform he wears.

This year, my love for Dragic and my Kobe fan hate are on a collision course of epic proportions.

Kobe is currently leading the voting for West All-Star guards despite "playing" in six games. That's no surprise. Fan voting is dumb. Jeremy Lin is 4th on the votes list and Ricky Rubio is 10th. Goran Dragic is not on the list at all.

I get why. It's just dumb.

Fortunately, guys like Dragic can usually get in on a coach's selection. The coach gets to pick two guards and has two "wildcard" picks he can use on any roster position. Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard will get in. So will James Harden. From there, Dragic has a decent shot, especially with injuries to Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul and a "down-ish" year for Tony Parker.

Goran is even getting All-Star love from the ESPN broadcast. He's winning. The Suns are winning. It's a great story. He's playing great. He's an All-Star. Period. (Stay tuned to this channel for a more rational and evidence-based argument for Dragic...but you don't need it. We all know it.)

BUT here's what's going to happen. Kobe Freaking Bryant is going to return from his latest injury just in time to take a spot from Goran. Sure, it could be Paul or Westbrook who returns in time to screw Dragic out of millions in salary bonuses for getting into the ASG, but we KNOW it will be Kobe.

Why do we know this? Because I've been a Suns fan since 1972 and the Lakers ALWAYS screw the Suns.

It hasn't happened yet and I'm still pissed. When it does happen. My fury will not be contained.

Date: March 22, 2010 Place: Oracle Arena; Oakland, California Set-up: It was a classic run ‘n gun affair between the two teams. The Phoenix Suns trailed the Golden State Warriors 122-119 with...

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The Suns have been playing 19 year old Archie Goodwin as the fourth guard all season, but Leandro Barbosa's arrival just might push Goodwin to the bench.

For the time being, new (and old) Phoenix Suns guard Leandro Barbosa will fill some of the gaping hole at scorer/playmaker left behind by the injured Eric Bledsoe.

In one game, last night's win improbable win over Minnesota, Barbosa showed the Suns he is easily the fourth best guard on the roster and can provide a key contribution for the rest of the season. In 13 minutes, "The Brazilion Blur" showed the speed for which he was famous by blowing past Minnesota defenders time and again.

Barbosa made only one of six shots but every shot was a good one, and between those shots he racked up 3 rebounds, 3 assists and blocked a shot while showing he can reprise what Bledsoe and Dragic do for the Suns: create his own shot from the key of the key when a play breaks down.

Goodwin the future, but LB the present

It's clear that Barbosa can be a scorer/playmaker off the bench in a four-guard rotation. For now, he's surrounded by Dragic, Gerald Green and Ish Smith, already better this season than Archie Goodwin.

The 19 year old Goodwin will still get spot time, but much like Ish Smith - who logged only 35 minutes in all of December - that time will likely only come as a sparkplug rather than a rotation regular. Offensively, Barbosa provides more than Goodwin, though he won't play defense as well. Lately, the Suns have been more starved for secondary offense than defense though, giving the nod to Barbosa.

Once Eric Bledsoe comes back from his knee sprain - be it Monday or weeks later, depending on the healing process - the Suns can close out their playoff run with a veteran rotation guard around young Eric Bledsoe in Dragic (28), Green (28) and Barbosa (31).

If the Suns were floundering toward a high lotto pick, then playing Goodwin over Barbosa would be a no-brainer. Barbosa never would have been signed, even in the wake of Bledsoe injury.

But a playoff run is in sight, and playoffs runs need consistent play up and down the roster.

Playoff run needs vets

Coming into the season, the Phoenix Suns had the league's second most inexperienced roster.

The Suns 13-man active roster had produced only TWO individual seasons of 30+ minutes per game. Channing Frye averaged 30+ minutes in one of eight NBA seasons (2010-11) and Goran Dragic had played 30+ minutes just once in five NBA seasons (2012-13).

That's it. Two.

Leandro Barbosa makes it three. Barbosa, like the rest of the team, has spent his entire career as a backup player but he did average 32 minutes per game in 2006-07.

You take what you can get.

Sure this team was built to spotlight under-25 youth like Eric Bledsoe, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, Archie Goodwin and Alex Len while waiting to add a few more youths in the talent-rich 2014 Draft. All but Len have been mainstays in the rotation, with Len's only issue being injury.

But Coach Hornacek is clearly playing to win by giving significant minutes to four players at least 27 years old (Frye, Dragic, Green and Tucker). He has been playing his youth, but the veterans are providing the necessary consistency to win the games. And it's working.

Now, with Barbosa in the fold, look for the Suns "rotation age" to go older yet. Barbosa, at 31, is now the sage veteran on the team. For those of us who watched Barbosa's career, it's crazy to think he's the oldest guy on ANY team.

Youth can be served next year when the Suns will be in even better position to use the youth factor. Len and Goodwin will be a year older, yet only Len will be old enough to buy alcohol. And, the Suns will bring in at least one first round draft pick, if not 2 or 3.

Swapping one rookie for another?

Speaking of Alex Len, all of 20 years old himself, it appears he may be ready for a rotation role just as Archie Goodwin is losing his. Len took the court the last two nights looking tall and talented, if also raw and gangly. He's easily the biggest player on the team and can help fortify the second unit while Plumlee rests.

For only the third time all season, Len appeared in both the first and second halves of a game last night. He grabbed five rebounds (4 on the offensive end) in only 12 minutes of play, a welcome sight for a team that ranks 21st in total rebounds.

We will see over the coming days if his ankle can handle the punishment. Twice before, Len has played in consecutive games, only to be shut down afterward due to ankle pain.

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