There are certain players immune to criticism. Then there are others who, no matter what they do, will always draw the ire of the fans. J.J. Bareahas been victim of the latter for years now.
Coming from humble backgrounds in Puerto Rico and going undrafted in 2006 out of Northeastern University, Jose Juan Barea averaged 27.3 points in just eight D-League games before Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson made him a member of the Dallas Mavericks.
Listed at 6 feet tall, that’s…a lie. Steve Nash was never 6 foot 3, either. Barea is probably 5 foot 11 in heels and given his diminutive size and lack of a résumé, fans have always been eager to point him out as the source of Mavs problems.
It’s a common theme in life, particularly sports. The guy who is the pro is hated on by fans who think “Man, I could do that, look at him.” Well, those fans have had very dang little to talk about the past few weeks.
Barea came onto the national scene during Dallas’ 2011 NBA Championship run. Always known as a pesky defender and a capable but streaky scorer, he was instrumental in the Mavericks sweep of the Lakers in the Western Conference Semi-Finals. He then scored in double digits off the bench in the Western Conference Finals vs. Oklahoma City.
In the NBA Finals, with Dallas down 2-1 to the Miami Heat, he entered the starting lineup. Dallas won three in a row and became Champions of the basketball world.
Then, as things usually work, homie got paid. The Minnesota Timberwolves shelled out $18 million dollars for Barea, who would now make annually nearly what he had made for his whole career.
Brought back on the veteran minimum last season and signing a four-year $16 million dollar deal this season (much to the dissatisfaction of fans), Barea was ultimately hard to single out in a roster that featured 39 point guards. Not that this year’s didn’t have Deron Williams, Raymond Felton and Devin Harris to split time there.
But Raymond Felton can only do so much (and he’s been great this season), Devin Harris seems to be less injury prone when used off the ball and Deron Williams inevitably got hurt.
With Williams nursing a sports hernia injury as well as Chandler Parsons (knee) having already been ruled out for the remainder of the season, the Mavericks turned to that spark plug we all know and love, except for everyone loves to hate the guy.
Deron hasn’t played since March 25th. Dallas lost that night in Golden State and then lost in Sacramento. They were now 35-38, three games under .500 for the first time all season and facing a realistic situation where Houston and Utah make the 2016 Playoffs above them. The Western Conference is abnormally bad this season, so as the Mavs needed 50 wins just to make 8th in 2014, they can finish as high as 6th in 2016.
And it’s all thanks to J.J. Barea.
While Dirk Nowitzki had the incredible stretch just prior to J.J.’s, Dallas was having trouble winning those games. The theme around here has been the same since Dallas won it all in 2011. Dirk can’t do it alone. Help came in the form of Barea, and it’s been magical.
Since Williams went down, Barea has started 5 of Dallas’s 7 games. He’s averaged 22.3 points, 6.3 assists and heck, 3.3 rebounds as well. He’s been amazing. Recognized as the Western Conference Player of the Week from March 28th to April 3rd, he’s only gotten better since.
In the midst of all this, J.J. and his wife Viviana welcomed their newborn daughter Paulina on March 31st. Talk about having the week of your career.
Coolest part, my mom delivered the baby! Okay, maybe just the coolest for me.
In any event, the Mavericks have won five games in a row, are back over .500 and back into the race for the 6th seed, which would mean avoiding a first round death match with either Golden State or San Antonio.
We have J.J. Barea to thank for it, Mavs fans. Get over it.