DALLAS – J. J. Barea made his first appearance at the Dallas Mavericks’ practice facilities on Friday since undergoing surgery this past Monday to repair his torn right Achilles tendon.
An upbeat Barea acknowledged that he’s feeling fine – under the circumstances — and that the timetable for his recovery is from six-to-10 months. More than anything, Barea was just delighted to be back in familiar surroundings and surrounded by his teammates and coaches.
“I’m happy to be here,” Barea said. “This is what I love to do, come here and practice and hang out with the guys.
“I’m feeling better today, I’m having a good day. I’m just out here talking to my boys and having a good time.’’
Barea tore his Achilles tendon during a Jan 11 contest in Minnesota against the Timberwolves. Meanwhile, the 13-year veteran stressed how important it was for him to come and be around his teammates, and how something as simple as engaging in tomfoolery could serve as sort of a medicine for him during his recovery process.
“My teammates, they’ve been great,” Barea said. “They’ve been coming over, hanging out with me and taking me to lunch.
“I’m blessed. I’m blessed to have the people in my family and teammates and everybody that—and you (media) guys too — that take care of me.”
Barea averaged 10.9 points and a team-high 5.6 assists per game this season. His absence, no doubt, will be solely missed, particularly since he was the undisputed leader of the Mavs’ second unit.
“He’s feeling good and has done extremely well off the surgery,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “The signs are very positive for him.
“It’s going to be a long road, like I said, I believe the other night, I would defy anybody to bet against this guy when it comes to having anything to do with him – an endeavor in basketball or the NBA. I just really believe he’s going to make a full comeback and play and play well again.”
Barea, who turns 35 in June, also is convinced he’ll make a full recovery and be able to play and play well again at some point next season. He’s convinced because guard Wesley Matthews talked with him and told him what to expect, and also gave him the knowledge he needs to overcome such a devastating injury.
After all, Matthews has been there done that when it comes to the injury Barea is dealing with. While playing for the Portland Trail Blazers, Matthews tore his left Achilles tendon during a Mar. 5, 2015 contest—ironically in a game against the Mavs.
Matthews underwent successful surgery, inked a four-year free agent contract with the Mavs in the summer of 2015, and – against all odds — was in the starting lineup on Oct. 28, 2015.
“I was just telling him to go through every emotion that went through his head,” Matthews said. “You just have to throw that out.
“I told him you cannot be too prideful, you cannot be too brave or too masculine. There are going to be high days and there are going to be low days. There are going to be great days, but it’s going to get better.”
Thanks to Matthews, that’s the belief Barea has for himself.
“He was great,” Barea said of Matthews. “He’s been talking to me — he went through it. We all know the fighter he is, so I’m going to keep talking to hm and asking him questions, but he’s been awesome.
“First of all he (said) you’re going to be back 100 percent. He just tried to give me positives, and then I’ve got to be patient. This is an injury you’ve got to be real patient with, but it gets better every day. It’s going to get better, so it’s going to give you something to work on every day.”
Carlisle recalls when everyone was questioning whether Matthews would be ready to play on opening day. Thus, he’s not doubting whether the same will happen with Barea.
“I just know that (recovery time) can vary, but you’re talking about a guy with an extremely positive view of everything,” Carlisle said of Barea. “He’s a great worker and he’s going to be extremely motivated.
“We saw this first-hand with Wesley Matthews four years ago when we signed him. In his case nobody ever would have dreamed that he would have played opening night in Phoenix that year, but not only dd he play, but he played extremely well. And he had a great year and helped us make the playoffs that year.”
Barea also plans on helping the Mavs make the playoffs this year – albeit from his seat on the bench while he lends some coaching input to the equation.
“I’ll definitely do more of that now,” Barea said, referring to coaching. “That’s something I want to do in my future, but now that I can’t play, I’ll definitely be experienced and learning more.
“I love Luka (Doncic) and Jalen (Brunson), so I’m going to definitely help them out. But when I definitely get better, I can start being more around. I‘ll definitely be in the games and on the bench. I don’t know if I’ll call any plays, but (Carlisle will) let me do basically almost everything.”
As he was getting around the Lympo practice facilities on crutches Friday, Barea was soaking it all in, and laughing and smiling and cracking jokes with whoever approached him. In other words, he was being J. J. Barea, the jovial person who is the life of the party.
“Everything looked great,” Barea said of his surgery. “I feel better than I thought I was going to feel.
“Mental, body-wise, I feel great. It’s going to be a new thing for me just trying to get ready and get back to work.”
Barea even got a laugh when his dog – a Husky name Jovi – got out of the house earlier this week and ran around the neighborhood, with center/forward Dwight Powell chasing after him.
“Somebody came to walk the dog, because I can’t walk it right now,” Barea said. “Dwight was at home and Dwight (said), ‘I’ll go get him.’
“He escaped. I was like, ‘Dwight, just take some ham and he’ll come back faster.’ Dwight thought that was like the funniest thing ever.”
As he contemplates what happened to him, Barea reminds himself out loud that a wealth of people – including proprietor Mark Cuban and general manager Donnie Nelson – will be by his side cheering him on to get better and get back on the court. But for now, his new normal is something he knows he has to get adjusted to.
“Every morning when I wake up it’s going to be rough,” Barea said. “I’m going through this. I love waking up every day and coming in to work — and playing for this team is what I love to do.
“It’s rough, but things happen for a reason and I’m going to stay positive. I’ve got a great family, great support system — my teammates, the trainers, the coaches, Mark, Donnie, all my fans and my family in Puerto Rico have been awesome. So I’m going to stay positive, I’m going to enjoy this comeback and see where it takes me.”