J.J. Barea might have a little extra giddyup in his step Saturday night when the Dallas Mavericks host the Minnesota Timberwolves at American Airlines Center.
The Timberwolves wanted to move forward with Ricky Rubio, Mo Williams and Zach LaVine as their point guards of the future. So last month they bought out the last year of Barea’s contract for $3.2 million and promptly waived him.
That paved the way for Barea to sign a one-year contract worth $1.3 million to return to the Mavericks, where he played from 2006 through the team’s championship year in 2011. When the Mavericks entertain the Timberwolves, Barea wouldn’t mind showing Minnesota a thing or two.
“I always say any time you want to show them how you can play,” Barea said after Friday’s practice. “But nothing against them — it’s just part of the game.”
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Barea (6-foot, 185 pounds) spent the past three star-crossed seasons with the Timberwolves. During the 2011-12 campaign he averaged career highs in points (11.3), rebounds (2.8), assists (5.7) and minutes (25.2) but missed 25 games due to ankle and thigh injuries.
In the 2012-13 season, Barea again averaged 11.3 points and 2.8 rebounds per game, and added four assists in 23.1 minutes per game. But as Rubio started emerging in popularity, the Timberwolves’ reliance on Barea diminished.
Last season, Barea averaged 8.4 points and only 18.6 minutes per game. The handwriting was clearly on the wall, although the nine-year veteran has no hard feelings about his tenure in the Twin Cities.
“I’ve got a bunch of good friends over there,” Barea said. “Most of the years I made a good group of friends, so it’s always fun to play your ex-team. It’ll be a little weird out there at the beginning. But then, that’s part of the game.”
During Thursday’s 123-70 victory over Philadelphia Barea distributed a season-high 11 assists while the entire 76ers team accumulated only nine.
“J.J. played OK, played well,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I just think this team is less about who’s getting individual stats and more about how the ball moves and kind of the collective energy in the game.”
Thursday’s game featured the kind of collective energy playmakers such as Barea thrive on, particularly when the assists keep piling up.
“My teammates played good,” Barea said. “I was able to make the extra pass, they were knocking down the shots, so they made my life a lot easier.”
Despite a roster that included Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Corey Brewer, Rubio and Barea, the Timberwolves failed to make the playoffs while Barea was in Minnesota. They posted a 97-133 record during his three years, with their best worksheet coming last season when they were 40-42.
“Sort of up and down,” Barea said in describing his time with the Timberwolves. “New city, new people, but they treated me well.
“Yeah, we had talent, but we were a young group, real young, a lot of injuries, too, came into effect, and some bad luck, too. So hopefully it’ll get better for them here in the next couple of years.”
After being a key piece in the Mavericks’ 2011 championship puzzle, Barea’s minutes have decreased a bit.
The 30-year-old Puerto Rican is averaging 6.3 points and 3.6 assists in 15 minutes per game, but he’s still as feisty as ever on the court.
“He penetrates and he’s like that annoying guy out there who’s flopping around,” point guard Devin Harris said. “He drives with force to be so small. He’s got every shot in his arsenal and he’s developed into a really good NBA player.”