“Just throw the whole season away!” These were my thoughts Monday night as the Lakers closed out the Mavericks 107 – 97. The once-surging Dallas Mavericks are now struggling with no answers in sight. Today, they partake in game 41 of 82 versus a disastrous Phoenix Suns team (9-32). It’s becoming increasingly more likely this version of the Mavs won’t be participating in any playoff action creating an ideal time to pay homage to a player the Mavs have desperately needed this season.
The Mavericks have lost their swagger, which is disheartening considering the decline has coincided with the return of future Hall-of-Famer Dirk Nowitzki. Instances such as these sway my memory to a fonder time, when playoff basketball was a constant reality. There are only two remaining members from the 2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks; J J Barea and Dirk Nowitzki. Clearly, on the back end of their careers, it’s an NBA rarity having championship veterans contributing to the team they previously won rings for. Teams and players tend to move on seemingly forgetting the good times.
Thank you J.J.
Barea, similar to Dirk, never expected to play in the NBA. To that point, every franchise in the 2006 draft passed on the undersized point guard from Northeastern. Standout summer league performances with the Mavs helped the Puerto Rico native ink a multi-year deal with the team. The Mavs current assist leader has carried the offensive load for the team’s bench, solidifying himself as the “Bench Mobs” Kingpin. As the losses mount, players commonly expect the grind of the season to intensify; however, this veteran can draw on previous experiences to provide a respected perspective all players can relate to, surely alleviating some pressure. There are only six players from the 2006 draft that have played in 800 or more games.
JJ joined this club on Monday night versus the Lakers. The durability it takes to reach such a milestone is remarkable considering he wasn’t drafted. From his bench role, the former champion is averaging 10.9 points and 5.6 assists; however, his most significant attribute is, by far, the leadership he brings.
When the team is in need of a boost, Rick Carlisle wastes no time in deploying Jose Juan for a well-needed jolt, typically reviving the squad. There has been a surprising urge by some Maverick fans to trade Dennis Smith Jr. – this notion is by far the most asinine strategy they could employ if the goal is to remain competitive in a league that is constantly getting younger. Allowing young players like DSJ and Luka Doncic the opportunity to observe and hopefully learn from such a hard-working veteran could prove to be career changing. His 5’9″ frame surely has a few solid seasons remaining but as this young Mavericks team matures so grows the likelihood Barea won’t be here.
This season is progressively morphing into a well-deserved tribute for an all-time great Maverick. Yes, ALL-TIME GREAT MAVERICK! Without the antics of Barea, the Mavs would be void their lone championship. Take a stroll down memory lane with me. Game five of the 2011 finals versus the Miami Heat. ENJOY!
Dallas Maverick fans were never afforded the opportunity to truly thank J.J. for his heroics. Sure, there was a championship parade and video tribute when he returned but it was rushed and cheapened by the fact Barea was gone not even a season after gifting the team a championship. Remember, it took a measly two seasons for the Mavs brass to overhaul the championship roster, only leaving three members of the 2011 squad and, ironically, J.J. Barea wasn’t one of the remaining.
Internal fortitude, self-motivation, and a never-say-die attitude catapulted this undrafted NBA veteran to a stratosphere no one could have predicted. His athletic spirit outlines the basic thesis of competition. NEVER GIVE UP! Despite Jose Juan’s relatively small stature and perceived limitations, he’s cultivated a new successful normal we all can envy and should attempt to duplicate.
Fans enjoy watching and supporting teams/players that display desirable characteristics they want in their own lives. The manner in which J.J. plays the game puts his character on full display making it easy to root for him. Playing hard, communicating, and accountability are staples of his game. Sometimes showing support for a floundering team can seem futile but hidden life gems like Jose Juan Barea make it all worth it!
Photos: Mavs.com *featured* Video: D-Mavs youtube.com Stats: basketballreference.com