Like many in America, Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea woke up Sunday morning in horror.
The events in Orlando, where a gunman killed 49 people and injured 53 others in the deadliest mass shooting in modern United States history, shook Barea to his knees.
Barea was born in Puerto Rico, but has close ties to Florida, where he graduated from Miami Christian School in 2002.
When Barea turned on his TV to watch news coverage of the shooting incident in Orlando, he said: “I couldn’t believe it. Some people were texting out numbers [of how many had died], and I said that couldn’t be true.
“And then when I saw the video of it and I heard the gunshots, it sounded like I was watching a movie. Like it was a bad movie.”
Authorities said Omar Mateen is solely responsible for the mass shooting after he opened fire early Sunday morning at the crowded Club Pulse. The fact that the shootings happened in Orlando — considered one of the happiest places in the world — wasn’t lost on Barea, who has spent a lot of time there over the years.
“I went to high school in Miami for one year and I know there’s a lot of Latinos over there in Orlando,” Barea said. “But things like that, especially when it happens in the States, is awful.
“I just hope for the best for the families and that they stay together and everybody can help each other out.”
Barea said he underwent arthroscopic surgery in April to repair his right medial meniscus.
The 10-year veteran added that only rest — not surgery — was needed to repair the strained right groin injury that nagged him late in the season and throughout the five-game first-round playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“I just had one knee scope the day after the season, and it was awesome,” Barea. “It was real quick and I’m good to go.”
Barea played in Dirk Nowitzki’s Heroes Celebrity Baseball Game on Friday and walked away without any complications from his surgery. He also played a few games of knockouts with some kids at the Mavs’ Hoop Camp on Monday morning at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Barea is also prepared to help Puerto Rico qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. But they’ll first have a tough challenge, starting with the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, set for July 4-9 in Belgrade, Serbia.
Barea and Puerto Rico will open the qualifying round against Serbia, the host team.
“They’ve got a great team and they’ve got great fans over there,” Barea said. “So it’s going to be a great experience, and yeah, we’re going to give it our best and see what could happen.
“I was going to play if I’m 100 percent. I feel pretty good. I’m working out, and then we’ll go from there.”
But before leaving for Serbia, Barea has a heavy heart while trying to make sense of what transpired in Orlando over the weekend.
“I don’t know actually the details on it,” Barea said. “I know a little bit about what happened, but that’s just terrible and I give my best to the families.”