Barea has no regrets with Wolves, but happy to be ‘home’ in Dallas
MINNEAPOLIS — When the Timberwolves negotiated a contract buyout with J.J. Barea in October, the embattled, Puerto Rican point guard knew exactly where he wanted to go.
Home. Numero Dos, that is.
"I had a great five years when I was in Dallas," Barea said. "No question, that was my second home away from Puerto Rico."
Barea’s second go-round with the Mavericks, who play Wednesday night at Minnesota, has been as congruent a fit as it was the first time, he and coach Rick Carlisle say. That wasn’t the case during Barea’s final year in Minneapolis, when his production dropped and so did the club’s enthusiasm for keeping him around as Ricky Rubio’s primary backup.
So the Wolves paid him a portion of the $4.5 million they owed him for this, the final year of his contract, to walk.
And the Mavericks, with whom Barea won a championship in 2011, swiped him up as soon as they could — and for a veteran-minimum $1.3 million.
"We like him. We’ve always liked him," said Carlisle, whose 2014-15 squad currently sits in the Western Conference’s fifth playoff spot. "It was disappointing when we couldn’t get him back in ’11. But we all understood the finances and dynamics of it, and he had to do what was best for him. This is a different time, and we’ve been fortunate to have a chance to get him back here."
Mavs owner Mark Cuban cited collective bargaining agreement restrictions as his reasons for cutting ties with Barea and a few other pieces from that 2010-11 NBA Finals winner. Dallas offered him just a one-year deal that paled in comparison to former Wolves president David Kahn’s four-year, $18 million offer.
Barea came north, averaging 11.3 points per game each of his first two seasons here. But last year, as Minnesota missed the playoffs for a 10th straight time and endured the final chapter of Kevin Love’s Twin Cities tenure, Barea started to struggle.
His 38.7 shooting percentage and 31.6-percent 3-point clip were career lows since his rookie year in Dallas. He clashed with Love and became frustrated with his playing time.
Still, Barea says, his three seasons in Minnesota didn’t come with any regrets.
"It was up and down playing-wise, winning-wise, but I made some good friends," Barea said. "I met a lot of good people here. My son was born here, was a big part of my life here. So yeah, some good times."
It’s especially easy to reflect on past positives when the present is so fruitful.
Returning to virtually the same role he had in Dallas from 2006-11, Barea is averaging 7.2 points and 3.1 assists in 15.9 minutes per game. His shooting percentage (43.2) is at its best since his last year with the Mavericks, and he’s making 3s at his most efficient rate (35.4 percent) since his first season in Minnesota.
And he’s back in the thick of a constricted Western Conference postseason race. Some of the names — Carlisle, Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler — are the same as 2010-11, but others — Rajon Rondo, Chandler Parsons — have been added to the mix since Barea’s rise from undrafted free agent to Mavericks fan favorite there.
"It’s great, man," Barea said. "It’s different. Every game is a battle. You know how the West is — you’re trying to get in better position every game. You can’t take no days off.
"It’s fun again."
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