Even before the propeller stopped spinning on the plane when point guard Shane Larkin flew into town this past summer, the Dallas Mavericks quickly handed him some tape with multiple games featuring J.J. Barea.
That’s how soon the Mavericks’ brass wanted Larkin to unpack his bags, hit the ground running and start learning the intricacies of arguably the best player standing 6-foot or shorter to ever play for the Mavericks.
“Probably every game J.J.’s played in a Mavericks jersey, I’ve seen highlights from it,” Larkin said after Tuesday’s practice. “So I’m looking at tape and just trying to become that type of player for the team.”
Barea, who played for the Mavericks from 2006 through their championship season in 2011, is generously listed at 6 feet and 178 pounds. Larkin, the 18th pick of last June’s NBA Draft, is generously listed at 5-11 and 176 pounds.
Currently in his third season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Barea was a pick-and-roll monster and defensive pest during his tenure with the Mavericks. Coach Rick Carlisle’s wish is for Larkin to assume some of those similar traits.
“I think there are things about Barea’s game that every sub-6-foot point guard can learn from,” said Carlisle, whose team hosts Houston at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. “But I want to be clear about this — the plan is not to clone J.J. Barea into Larkin, because they are different players and they’re different people with different personalities.
“But [the plan is] just to show the things that [Larkin] is capable of in situations where he can be effective the way J.J. was.”
After undergoing surgery on his fractured right ankle on July 16, Larkin didn’t make his debut with the Mavericks until he came off the bench to score three points, dispense three assists and pick up three steals in only nine minutes during Monday’s 97-94 win over Philadelphia. His speed helped him become Miami’s best player last season, and Larkin showed he has the capacity to alter the tempo of a game in a matter of seconds.
“I thought, all things considered, he came in and played with presence, he was aggressive and yet under control,” Carlisle said. “Look, he’s a guy that knows the game, he’s worked hard at the game, he’s worked hard at his rehab and conditioning, and all those things showed.
“We need speed on this team, we need playmaking ability, we need lane penetration, we need defense and we need scoring and I think he can help us in all those areas. The fact that he’s not that tall is something that he’s got to turn into an advantage for him.”
Monday was Larkin’s first game in nearly eight months — since the Hurricanes were eliminated by Marquette, 71-61, in the NCAA Sweet 16 on March 28. His parents, including baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, were at American Airlines Center for the game.
“I remember going to my dad’s games and watching him and just thinking one day I want to be doing this — it wasn’t for baseball, it was for basketball,” Larkin said. “But that was kind of the feeling I had when I first walked out on the court and everybody was applauding my name.
“I kind of looked back to my mom and dad. They weren’t looking at me, but it was all good.”
Larkin said it’s also all good that the Mavs want him to emulate Barea instead of Denver’s Ty Lawson, the person Larkin patterns his game after.
“J.J. is a great player, no disrespect to J.J., he’s a great player in this league,” Larkin said. “But Ty was a borderline All-Star last year and that’s kind of the player I want to become.
“But J.J., for this team, was an awesome player and was one of the best players in that (2011) Finals when they won it. So if I can embrace that role and become like a J.J. Barea for this team this year, that’ll be good for me.”