DALLAS — Hampered by a nagging left calf injury that sidelined him for much of the 2016-17 season, veteran point guard J.J. Barea still found a way to make an impact for the Dallas Mavericks on and off the court.
This season, Barea played in just 35 games while battling through the lingering calf injury, averaging 10.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists during 22.0 minutes per outing. He also connected on 41.4 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from behind the three-point arc, emerging once again as one of the Mavs’ best playmakers off the bench. But after playing the fewest amount of games since making 33 appearances his rookie season, the 11-year veteran reflected on his up-and-down ’16-17 campaign.
“You know, personally, it was tough. I’ve never went through what I went through this year, but I learned a lot,” Barea said after the conclusion of the season. “I learned a lot about my injury and my calf, but I was able to finish healthy. I’m going to be able to have a good summer, and I’m going to really work more on my body than basketball. Basketball, I think, I’m in a good place and in a good rhythm. Knowing the game, I’ve just got to really work on my body, and I have to be able to have a good year next year.
“I learned things I’ve got to do for it not to happen again. When it does, I’ve got to be a little more patient. But hopefully I’m going to work on it, so we’ll go from there.”
The 32-year-old Barea returned to the lineup and tried to help the Mavericks finish the season strong with nine points and three assists in 14 minutes during a 105-96 home win over Brooklyn on March 9 after missing the previous 20 games. He also struggled through a stint when a previous injury to the same calf forced the undersized floor general to miss 24 of 26 games from Nov. 18 to Jan. 5. But despite seeing the Mavs miss out on the playoffs following a 33-49 season, Barea says it was rewarding to battle with his teammates to close the grueling 82-game schedule.
Barea averaged 16.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists while competing in nine of the Mavericks’ first 10 games, picking up where he left off at after a stellar year during the ’15-16 season. He then found himself out of the lineup after straining the calf during a 90-83 defeat in Boston on Nov. 16. Barea returned to the lineup to play in 17 of the final 19 games, highlighted by a 20-point, seven-assist outing during a 111-104 win in Brooklyn on March 19. And after averaging 12.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists during five games in April, Barea was excited to head into the offseason on a high note.
“It was huge. You know, I wanted to finish the year strong and be out there doing my thing again, so I could go into the summer a little bit more at ease. I could go out there and help the team out as much as I can. We tried there at the end and wasn’t able to (make the playoffs), but just to be out there and finishing the year was good for me,” Barea said of his late surge to end the season.
Despite being in and out of the lineup due to the calf injury this season, Barea still found a way to make an impact by serving as a mentor for the team’s young guards in the locker room.
Barea took undrafted rookie Yogi Ferrell and 26-year-old combo guard Seth Curry under his wings to help the young floor generals navigate through their first season with the Mavericks. He also gave the duo plenty of added motivation throughout the season, challenging both to produce at a high level in his absence. Barea now sees his mentorship being beneficial this summer. With that said, Barea looks forward to joining forces with Ferrell and Curry next season as the Mavericks try to return to prominence with another playoff push.
“It’s big. With Yogi and Seth, I think we’ve got a good young group. They’re ready to learn, and they’re going to work hard. It’s going to be a team thing. And then the point guards, we’re going to have three to four, and we’ve got to do it together,” Barea explained.
He added: “Now, for me, I always try to produce on the court. But also off the court, I try to help [Curry and Ferrell] out and keep them positive. With everything I went through early, I show them things to do and stuff like that, and I just help them as much as I can.”