Mavs From the Past: J.J. Barea

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Jose Juan Barea better known as J.J. Barea is a name many Mavs fans know and cherish. He spent most of his NBA career as part of the Mavericks and personified the phrase “heart over height.” Barea was Dallas’ fearless floor general and made his presence known in the NBA.

Early Years

Barea was born and raised in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. 

In 2001, he began to play for Los Indios de Mayagüez, a professional basketball team in the Baloncesto Superior Nacional (BSN).

Barea then moved later in the year to Miami, Florida where he attended and played on the men’s basketball team at Miami Christian School. As a senior, he averaged 20 points per game (PPG), six rebounds per game (RPG), and eight assists per game (APG). He led his team to a 38-2 record for the season and the state championship. In December 2001, he made himself known nationally as he shined in the City of Palms Classic and led his team in scoring.

He returned to play for Los Indios de Mayagüez in the 2002 BSN season where he averaged 2.8 PPG for the team in 14 games.

College Years

Barea decided to attend Northeastern University for college.

He immediately became a starter in his first year on the team. Barea averaged 17.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.9 APG, and 1.6 steals per game (SPG) in his 28 starts for the year. His 17.0 PPG led the conference in scoring. The Huskies finished sixth in the America East Conference (AEC) with an 8-8 record. Their .500 record in conference games wasn’t enough to help them qualify for the NCAA tournament. They finished off their season 16-15, barely squeezing by with a winning record. Barea became the first freshman in Huskies’ history to record 400 points and 100 assists. He was rewarded for his incredible freshman season by being named to the All-AEC third-team and the AEC All-Rookie team.

The following season Barea improved in all areas of his game as he averaged 20.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 5.8 APG, and 1.7 SPG. He got the start in all but one of the team’s 26 games. Despite going 13-5 in their conference games and finishing third in the AEC, Northeastern missed out again on the NCAA tournament. Not only did they improve their conference record from the year prior, but they also improved their overall record, finishing the season with a 19-11 winning record. Barea became the first Huskies player since Reggie Lewis in the 1986-87 season to average 20 PPG for the season. He also finished second in the conference in scoring and assists. Barea finished off a stellar sophomore season by being named to the All-AEC first-team.

Barea’s junior season at Northwestern was the best in his basketball career. He put up a career-high 22.2 PPG, along with 4.3 RPG, 7.3 APG, and 1.8 SPG. Barea got the start in all 30 of the Huskies’ games. Even though Barea had the best season in his career it still wasn’t enough for Northeastern to make March Madness as they finished second in the conference with a 15-3 record. The Huskies’ season finished with a 21-10 record and Barea was named to his second consecutive All-AEC first-team.

Northeastern switched over to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) in the 2005-06 season but that didn’t make a difference to Barea as he continued to dominate on the court. In his senior year, Barea put up 21.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 8.4 APG, and 1.3 SPG while getting the start in all 29 of the team’s games. Northeastern didn’t have any better luck in the CAA as they finished fifth with a 12-6 record when it came to conference games. The Huskies missed out on March Madness all four years Barea was on the squad. They finished off their season with another winning record, this time going 19-11. Even though Barea never got to participate in the NCAA tournament, it wasn’t all bad news as he finished off his senior year with a handful of awards and honors. He was named an Honorable Mention All-America by The Associated Press, first-team NABC All-District One, and first-team All-CAA. When it came to solo awards, Barea won big as he was named Mid-Major Player of the Year by CollegeInsider.com and CAA Player of the Year.

Time After College

In April 2006, Barea took part in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. He impressed many as he averaged 14.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 13.7 APG in the tournament. Barea even set a single-game and single-tournament assists record when he racked up 18 assists in a game and a total of 41 in a three-game span. His impressive showing in the tournament got him the first Allen Iverson A.I. award, given to the player who is deemed most important to his team.

After the tournament, Barea returned to Puerto Rico where he played for Los Cangrejeros de Santurce during the 2006 BSN season. He put up 10.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, and 2.7 APG in nine appearances with the team.

Welcome to the NBA

Barea went undrafted in the 2006 NBA Draft.

Barea joined the Golden State Warriors for the 2006 Las Vegas Summer League. In five games, he averaged 6.8 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 2.8 APG, and 2 SPG.

Barea then joined the Mavericks in the Rocky Mountain Revue, another summer league event. In three games with the team, he averaged 12.0 PPG, 1.7 RPG, and 6.7 APG.

Barea signed a deal with the Mavericks during the 2006 offseason. In his first year on the team, he wasn’t used much, only appearing in 33 games and getting the start in one of them. His rookie year numbers weren’t that eye-catching as he averaged 2.4 PPG, 0.8 RPG, and 0.7 APG for the season. He got limited playing time in his first year with the team, playing only 5.8 minutes per game (MPG). Barea even got sent down to the Mavericks’ D-League team, the Fort Worth Flyers, in mid-January but was called back up at the beginning of February. The Mavericks had a very successful 2006-07 season as they finished with a league-best 67-15 record. Unfortunately for the Mavs, their regular-season luck didn’t transfer over to the playoffs. In the first round of the playoffs, the Mavericks lost in six games to the Warriors. The Mavericks’ loss to the Warriors was the first time in NBA history in which a No. 1 seed lost to a No. 8 seed in a seven-game series. Barea appeared in two of the playoff games, both appearances being in garbage time. He played 2.0 MPG but didn’t get any points, rebounds, assists, steals, or blocks in that time.

Transition to a Role Player

The following season Barea got a few more opportunities to show off his talent on the court. He appeared in 44 games and even got the opportunity to start in nine of them. His numbers improved a bit as he averaged 4.3 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 1.3 APG, and 0.3 SPG for the season. His playing time also rose as he got the chance to play 10.5 MPG, almost twice as much as the year prior. The Mavericks finished the season 51-31, good enough to finish seventh in the West. Dallas had another quick exit out of the playoffs as they were eliminated in five games by the New Orleans Hornets. Barea took part in one of the playoff games where he managed to score eight points and get an assist in five minutes.

By his third year with the team, Barea was a full-fledged role player. His numbers continued to grow as he averaged 7.8 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 3.4 APG, and 0.5 SPG in 79 appearances. Barea continued to predominantly come off the bench but he did get the opportunity to start in 15 of his 79 games played. The Mavericks finished sixth in the conference with a 50-32 record. In the first round of the playoffs, the Mavs took down their rivals, the San Antonio Spurs, in five games. Dallas’ time in the playoffs came to an end in the following round when they lost to the Denver Nuggets in five games. Barea got the start in four of the ten playoff games and put up 7.6, 2.0 RPG, 3.4 APG, and 0.3 SPG in the two series.

Barea continued to be the spark plug off the bench that the Mavericks needed during the 2009-10 season. In 78 games played he averaged 7.6 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 3.3 APG, and 0.4 SPG. During the 2009-10 season, Barea started in 18 games, the most for him in a single season. The Mavericks finished second in the West with a 55-27 record. The Mavericks’ playoff bad luck continued as they were eliminated in the first round for the third time in four years, this time by the Spurs in six games. Barea came off the bench in all six playoff games where he averaged 5.8 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 0.3 SPG.

Championship Season

The 2010-11 season was a special year for Barea and the Mavericks. His numbers continued to grow as he averaged 9.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 3.9 APG, and 0.4 SPG throughout the season. Barea started in two of his 81 games played, only missing out on one game for the season. Dallas clinched the third seed in the West with a 57-25 record. The Mavs took down the Portland Trail Blazers in six games to start off their playoff run. In the second round, Dallas swept the Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers. In the Western Conference Finals, the Mavericks beat the Oklahoma City Thunder and their young trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden in five games. 

In the NBA Finals, the Mavericks faced off against the Miami Heat. The Heat were led by ‘The Big Three’ consisting of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Barea was tasked with guarding LeBron for a couple of plays and was able to clamp him down and get in his head a bit. By the time the dust settled, the Mavericks were NBA champions, winning the series in six games on Miami’s home court. In the playoffs, Barea averaged 8.9 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 3.4 APG, and 0.3 SPG. He appeared in every playoff game and even got the start in three of them. Barea did all the little things right in the playoffs, something that became a hallmark of his throughout his career. Barea wasn’t the best on defense but when it was needed most from him he became a pest on the defensive end and made it almost impossible for his opponents to score without getting an offensive foul called on them.

Timberwolves Years

The Mavericks and Barea failed to reach a contract agreement, and he began searching for a new team. Barea signed a deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves in December 2011, before the NBA’s shortened lockout season began. In his three years with the team, he mostly came off the bench for the Wolves, but he did get the opportunity to start when some of the starters came down with injuries. Barea averaged 10.1 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 4.3 APG, and 0.3 SPG in his three years on the team. Even though Barea suffered injuries during his time with the Timberwolves, he still played in 194 games with the team and started in 14 of them.

The Timberwolves had a losing record all three years Barea was on the team, having their best season in the 2013-14 season when they finished 10th in the Western Conference with a 40-42 record.

Return to Dallas

At the beginning of the 2014-15 season, Barea signed as a free agent with the Mavericks and made his long-awaited return to the team.

In Barea’s first game back in Dallas he got a standing ovation from the crowd when he came off the bench for the first time. In his first year back with the Mavs Barea averaged 7.5 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 3.4 APG, and 0.4 SPG. Barea started in 10 of his 77 games played for the season. By this point in his career, Barea had firmly established himself as a floor general and knew all the minor details that needed to be done to win. He also took the veteran of mentoring the younger guys and giving them any advice needed for them to succeed. The Mavs managed to clinch the seventh seed with a 50-32 record. Their playoff run was short-lived, as they were eliminated in five games by the Houston Rockets. Barea put up 11.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 7.4 APG, and 0.8 SPG while getting the start in two of the five playoff games.

Barea’s numbers continued to improve as the years went by. In the 2015-16 season, he averaged 10.9 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 4.1 APG, and 0.4 SPG. He started in 16 of his 74 outings with the team. Dallas again managed to clinch a playoff spot, this time the sixth seed with a 42-40 record. Their playoff misfortunes continued as they were eliminated in the first round for the second year in a row with Barea on the team, this time by the Thunder in five games. Barea took part in four of the games due to a nagging groin injury he sustained at the end of the season. He got the start in two of the playoff games. In the series, Barea averaged 6.3 PPG, 1.3 RPG, and 5.0 APG.

Barea strained both of his calves during the 2016-17 season which caused him to miss a significant amount of time throughout the season. Barea put up similar numbers to the year prior as he averaged 10.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 5.5 APG, and 0.4 SPG for the season. He appeared in only 35 games and started six of them. The Mavericks missed the playoffs for the first time in four years as they finished 11th in the Western Conference with a 33-49 losing record.

Barea’s best NBA season numbers-wise was the 2017-18 season. He put up 11.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 6.3 APG, and 0.5 SPG in 69 appearances on the court. He also got the start in 10 games. The Mavericks on the other hand had their worst season in almost 20 years. The team finished 13th in the West with a 24-58 record, completely missing out on the playoffs.

Final Years in the NBA

Barea missed half of the 2018-19 season after tearing his right Achilles tendon in a game against the Timberwolves on January 11, 2019. He took part in 38 games, all coming off the bench. In his shortened 2018-19 season, Barea put up 10.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 5.6 APG, and 0.6 SPG. The Mavericks suffered another losing season as they finished 14th in the Western Conference with a 33-49 record.

The 2019-20 season would be Barea’s final season in the NBA as a player. His numbers went down slightly but he still averaged 7.7 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 3.9 APG, and 0.2 SPG throughout the season. He started in six of his 29 games played. The Mavericks finally made the playoffs after four years when they finished the season with a winning record of 43-32 and clinched the seventh seed in the West. The Mavericks battled it out with the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. It was a hard-fought battle between the Clippers and Dallas, a battle that the Clippers ultimately won in six games. Barea only took part in one of the playoff games where he came off the bench and scored three points in five minutes.

On December 1, 2020, Barea signed a one-year deal with the Mavericks. The Dallas Mavericks team owner, Mark Cuban, offered Barea the contract knowing there weren’t enough roster spots to keep everyone on the team. Barea was waived from the team nine days later, but he got to keep the money from the contract he signed. Cuban offered him the contract for all the years of loyalty Barea had given the Mavericks.

Barea was one of the Mavericks’ cornerstones for well over a decade. In his 11 years with the team, he averaged 8.6 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 3.8 APG, and 0.4 SPG. Barea was the team’s main energy source off the bench as he started in only 93 out of his 637 games played with the Mavs. During his time with the Mavericks, Barea went from being the undrafted rookie that had something to prove to the veteran floor general that knew all the ins and outs of the game.

Playing Internationally

In January 2021, Barea signed with the Movistar Estudiantes of the Liga Española de Baloncesto (LEB Oro), a Spanish league. In 18 games with the team, he averaged 12.6 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 4.7 APG, and 0.9 SPG.

In May 2021, Barea returned to los Cangrejeros de Santurce. He averaged 10.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 4.2 APG, and 0.5 SPG in 17 appearances.

He continued to play for them the following season where he averaged 14.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 8.0 APG, and 0.7 SPG in 26 outings.

Barea announced his retirement from basketball in July 2022.

Personal Life

In 2011, Barea began a relationship with Miss Universe 2006 Zuleyka Rivera. The couple had a boy together in 2012 named Sebastián José Barea Rivera. A year later Barea and Rivera split.

Barea then started dating Miss Universe Puerto Rico Viviana Ortiz in the summer of 2013. The couple had a daughter named Paulina Barea Ortiz in 2016. Barea and Ortiz got married later in the year.

After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, Barea shipped out more than 100,000 pounds of food, water, power generators, and other supplies to his homeland. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban let him use the team plane to ship out the items to the island. The team plane made five trips to Puerto Rico, Barea went once while his wife helped take the supplies needed the other four times. 

Barea personally raised $500,000 for Puerto Rico, another $270,000 was raised through a Youcaring campaign, and $114,000 was raised by the Mavericks from ticket sales. Additionally, Barea also provided the island with 600 bicycles.

For all his humanitarian work in aiding his homeland of Puerto Rico, Barea was awarded the NBA Cares Community Assist Award, the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, and the Mannie Jackson Human Spirit Award.

In 2017, Barea was named the head coach of los Indios de Mayagüez.

Before the 2021-22 season, Barea was hired by the Mavericks as a player development coach. In his first season as a coach, the Mavs finished fourth in the West with a 52-30 record. Dallas defeated the Jazz in the first round, before taking down the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Semifinals. In the Western Conference Finals, the Mavericks finally met their match when they lost the series in five games to the Warriors.

During the summer, Barea also runs several basketball clinics throughout Puerto Rico. He also donates uniforms and equipment for the youth leagues on the island.

Legacy

Barea played almost 15 years in the NBA and was the epitome of heart over height. The fearless floor general wasn’t afraid to put his body on the line if it meant the Mavericks would succeed. In his native country of Puerto Rico, he is seen as one of the best basketball players to come from there. Barea inspired many Latin children around the world and showed them with hard work dreams can come true. Mavs fans will remember him for all the hard work he put in to help the team succeed, being a great veteran leader to his teammates, and for his loyalty to the Mavericks. Barea is viewed by many fans as a Maverick for life.



Categories: Mavs Fans For Life, Mavs From the Past

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