Harrison Barnes Donates Protective Gear to Dallas ISD Basketball Teams

DALLAS – Some bad experiences on the basketball court was one of the reasons Harrison Barnes wanted to engage in a teachable moment with athletes from the Dallas Independent School District.

Earlier this month, Barnes visited Dallas Lincoln High School and shared with members of the boys and girls basketball teams the virtues of wearing a mouthguard while playing in a basketball game. It was one of those ‘been there done that and paid a heavy price for not wearing the mouthguard’ moments for Barnes.

“I’ve had my nose broken and some teeth chipped while I was in the NBA because I didn’t wear a mouthpiece,” Barnes said. “Now that I wear a mouthpiece, now that I wear protective gear, it helps, just because you’re going in the paint, you’re rebounding and elbows are flying.”

“If you get hit in the face now, you feel it a little bit. But now it’s not nearly as bad.”

Barnes teamed up with Shock Doctor and McDavid to donate a Super Fit basketball mouthguard, an NBA-branded mouthguard, a McDavid HEX shooter sleeve and a pair of McDavid HEX leg sleeves to all 15 players on Lincoln’s boys basketball team, and all 15 players on Lincoln’s girls basketball team – along with nine other Dallas ISD high schools: Adamson, Madison, Molina, Pinkston, Roosevelt, Samuel, South Oak Cliff, Spruce and Sunset high schools.

Between the 10 DISD schools, they will be rewarded with 600 mouthguards, 300 shooter sleeves and 300 leg sleeves.

LaJeanna Howard, the girls basketball coach at Lincoln, is grateful for the kind gesture that Barnes bestowed upon her team.

“Harrison Barnes and the Dallas Mavericks giving us protective equipment that’s truly necessary is an awesome experience for the kids to be able to witness and be a part of,” Howard said. “The kids don’t understand as well as the adults do how important having protective equipment is and having things that they will need. So we’re very thankful for Harrison in choosing Lincoln to be part of this movement.”

Lincoln’s boys basketball coach, Cedric Patterson, said the complimentary equipment is something he and his players will truly treasure.

“I want to thank the Mavericks and Harrison Barnes for coming out and donating the mouthpieces and the other equipment for our guys and our young ladies,” Patterson said. “And also just coming out and speaking to them. That’s important to them, so I want to thank Harrison and the Mavericks. It’s a good thing for Lincoln High School because it brings good publicity to our school and our basketball program, and I love it.”

Actually, it was a total surprise to the basketball players at Lincoln that Barnes was going to show up at their South Dallas school and present them with the protective gear. So they were all in awe when he walked through the doors as they were assembled on their basketball court.

“As an NBA player and just as somebody in the community, I think it’s good for kids to see you just so you can talk to them,” Barnes said. “You can actually speak life to them and say, ‘Look, this is how I made it, this is my experience, here’s some things you should do and here’s some things you shouldn’t do,’ and go from there.”

Kennedy Taylor, a senior guard on Lincoln’s boys basketball team, said he’ll cherish the valuable advice Barnes shared with the Lincoln basketball players. He is also giddy about receiving the equipment.

“I just want to thank the Dallas Mavericks, Harrison Barnes, Shock Doctor and McDavid,” said Taylor, who has verbally committed to play for Texas State University. “You need a mouthpiece to protect your mouth so you won’t get busted lips, and you need the arm sleeve.”

Kennedy Milton, a senior guard on Lincoln’s girls basketball team, also expressed gratitude for the gifts that were presented to the Lincoln basketball players.

“We always get out on the court and we always need protection, and I’m very appreciative of this kind gesture from McDavid, Shock Doctor and the Dallas Mavericks,” said Milton, who has verbally committed to attend Oral Roberts University. “It was a great honor.”

Raymond Williams, the brand manager for Shock Doctor and McDavid USA, said he spent the past two NBA offseasons devising a plan to get Barnes involved with his products.

“We had floated the idea by Harrison because we knew (in the summer of 2016) he was new to the city,” Williams said. “This was a way to get him involved in the city in his first one to two years. Harrison was on board for it and we were extremely excited for it.”

Still, associating a mouthguard with basketball, Williams admits, is not a natural thing.

“We’re actually trying to get products in front of kids and be able to speak about it,” Williams said. “I think the thing we’ve struggled with in the past is when kids think mouthguard, they think football. I think with technology and being able to show them a product, present it, get it in their mouth and let them play with it, it’ll change their perspective on what mouthguards can do for you.”

In other words, Barnes is hopeful the knowledge he shared with the Lincoln players about using protective gear will impact their lives in a positive way.

“Most people believe a mouthguard is cumbersome and it’ll just throw you off your game,” Barnes said. “But the best ability is availability. You hate to miss a game because of a chipped tooth or a missed tooth or a bone bruise.”

All chipped teeth and bone bruises aside, Barnes is aware of how beneficial it is for him to make appearances at various inner-city schools.

“It’s huge to come out here and talk to these kids about protection, just in terms of taking care of your mouth and taking care of your body from the bumps and bruises,” Barnes said. “More importantly than that, I think it’s great to come out here and just let the kids see pro players interact in their community, and coming out and supporting them and hanging out with them and talking to them and giving them words of encouragement.”

JJ Barea Awarded Community Assist Award

Inside Stuff: Puerto Rico’s Son, J.J. Barea

Kristen Ledlow sits down with Puerto Rico native J.J. Barea to talk about how he and the Dallas Mavericks are helping hurricane relief efforts in his homeland.

DALLAS — A few minutes after he handed J.J. Barea a trophy for receiving the October NBA Cares Community Assist Award, Bob Lanier was gushing about what the Dallas Mavericks’ veteran guard was able to accomplish while helping Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

The award, presented by Kaiser Permanente in recognition of Barea’s continuous relief effort in Puerto Rico, was given to Barea during an on-court ceremony at halftime of Monday’s game against the Boston Celtics. Along with the prestigious award, the NBA and Kaiser Permanente will also donate $10,000 to the J.J. Barea Foundation.

Lanier, the NBA Cares Ambassador, said he’s glad Barea’s heartfelt contributions didn’t go unnoticed.

“By himself, J.J. raised over $500,000 and brought a lot of food and commodities (to Puerto Rico) for the people who need it,” Lanier said. “His whole family has been involved, and his dad is still there helping in the community and helping assist people in need.”

“His heart is behind his words and his actions are behind that.”

A native of Puerto Rico, Barea, if he could, probably wishes he could break up his award and give a lot of different people a piece of it. He described it as an award that should be shared by many.

“I’ve got a great group here in Dallas, starting with my wife and my boys,” Barea said. “And then my Dallas Mavericks family, starting with (owner) Mark Cuban, who has been amazing for the help in Puerto Rico.”

“My foundation is now bigger over there in Puerto Rico. They’re still helping. Every week we go to a different place. All of the support that we get here we can help my hometown.”

Barea acknowledged that Cuban surprised him when he allowed him to use his private airplane to carry much-needed supplies to Puerto Rico not once, not twice, not three times. . .but five times.

“I thought we were going to take it one time, but he just kept filling it up,” Barea said. “He was awesome.”

“Like I told Mark every time we sent a plane, I texted him: ‘There are no words to describe, but thank you.’ “

In conjunction with various partners in North Texas, Barea delivered more than 100,000 pounds of supplies to Puerto Rico, including 14,000 pounds of water, 10,000 pounds of food, 32 generators, and 3,000 pounds of clothing, diapers, cleaning products, medical supplies and toiletries — on just the first trip to the devastated island.

Barea also launched a fundraiser that raised more than $250,000 on YouCaring.com for families affected by Hurricane Maria. In addition, he worked with the Mavs to donate 100 percent of all single-game ticket sales from their Oct. 25 contest against the Memphis Grizzlies to Puerto Rico, and that generated an additional $114,000 for the island’s recovery.

During the last six months the NBA Cares Community Assist Award was handed out the past season, the winners were CJ McCollum, Isaiah Thomas, Zach Randolph, Elfrid Payton, Jrue Holiday and Jimmy Butler. Thomas also won the NBA Cares Season-long Community Assist Award for the 2016-2017 season.

While becoming this season’s first regular-season recipient of the NBA Cares Community Assist Award, Barea simply just wanted to do something to help his home town. He wasn’t in it for the award or world-wide notoriety, but is grateful for the acknowledgement.

“I think it’s great that the league does this,” Barea said. “I know there are a lot of players here throughout my career that has been awesome in the community.”

Lanier noted that it’s a clear-cut process on how Barea was chosen as the award-winner for the month of October.

“There’s a panel of people that look for the impact that players have on communities across the board,” Lanier said. “Depending on how many people are up for the award, there’s a panel of people that look at it, and then everybody takes a vote and they see who they think has the most impact and then we go out and give the award.”

“The blessing for us is we have a lot of players now that are involved in trying to make a difference in communities around the globe.”

Lanier also recognized the roles Cuban and the Mavs played in helping Barea bring some relief to the folks in Puerto Rico. That includes coach Rick Carlisle allowing Barea to skip practice during his first journey to Puerto Rico.

“You’ve got to give Mark Cuban and the Mavs credit that they assisted with Mark’s planes and got a lot of the commodities there,” Lanier said. “I thought that was pretty special that Mark would do that.”

“That shows the kind of heart and consideration that Mark has for not only his players, but for a community that’s far away from here.”

Ordinary citizens also pitched in to assist Barea.

“I’ve got fans in the first row of games, and some of them have given me a check for my foundation,” Barea said. “There are no words to describe it.”

“I just want to thank them for wanting the best for Puerto Rico.”

Harris & Withey Donate Turkeys in Season of Giving

Mavs Turkey Giveaway

Devin Harris and Jeff Withey teamed up to donate 250 Thanksgiving meals to local families!

MESQUITE – Dallas Mavericks center Jeff Withey experienced his first Mavs Turkey Giveaway last Thursday. And that experience left him with an indelible impression.

As Withey and others were loading up one car after another at Buckner International with turkeys and other sides just in time for Thanksgiving, he couldn’t help but reflect on the impact he believes all of these good tidings were having on those who are less fortunate than him.

“I think the thing that stuck out the most was how appreciative everybody was,” Withey said. “I know one guy was crying because he was so happy and grateful and thankful for just a meal with his family.”

Mavs guard Devin Harris, Withey, the Mavs Dancers, Mavs ManiAACs and several others handed out 250 turkeys, corn, cranberry sauce, green beans, candied yams, butter potatoes, stuffing and cake mix to families in need. Harris and Withey donated the turkeys and the other items were provided by Albertsons Tom Thumb.

This was the eighth year for this event, and Harris has been a willing participant in it for four years now.

“The families have been really appreciative,” Harris said. “Albertsons Tom Thumb, they’re very gracious with their help in being able to feed these families.”

“To be able to feed 250 families on Thanksgiving I think is great.”

Steve Watson, the director for international humanitarian aid for Buckner International, praised Harris for being part of the event less than a month after the guard’s brother was killed in an automobile accident.

“One of the things everybody was asking was, ‘Who’s coming?,’ ‘’ Watson said. “I said, ‘I’m pretty sure Devin will be here.’

“I think it’s great, especially right now with what’s going on in his family. For him to still come and give back I think it’s just a great day.”

Harris has developed a close-knit bond with the folks at Buckner International, and knew this was the place he needed to be.

“With Thanksgiving being my favorite holiday, I have a lot to be thankful for,” Harris said. “It’s only right that I be able to give back and make sure these people will have the same feeling that I have.”

Buckner International is a global, faith-based ministry dedicated to transforming the lives of vulnerable children, orphans, the elderly and families across the world. The company serves over a million people in 18 countries via various programs.

Tilia Sanchez, who is a Buckner International client, was very thankful she was able to receive the complimentary turkey and all the trimmings so she can feed her family on Thanksgiving Day.

“It means a lot,” Sanchez said. “It takes a little expense off my shoulders, so it’s nice for someone to be doing something like this.”

This was the first time Sanchez has attended the event, and she vows to return again next year.

“I’m actually a part of Buckner,” Sanchez said. “Buckner has helped me a lot, so they told me about this as well.”

Now in his fifth year in the NBA and first with the Mavs, Withey had never been part of a turkey giveaway before. Now he’s hooked on all of the good that this event entails.

“I did a Toy Drive when I was in New Orleans a couple of years ago,” Withey said. “I was asking Devin about it earlier and he just said it was a lot of fun.”

“You can tell the families are very thankful for getting the turkey and food. It’s a great way to interact with Mavs fans and people in the community.”

Watson expressed how blessed and grateful he and his staff are that the Mavs and Albertsons Tom Thumb took time out of their busy schedules to show some love to their community.

“This is one of the days that, as a staff, we look forward to it, because we get to help in a huge way,” Watson said. “But it’s something that the clients start asking about in September. They started asking, ‘Are the Mavs going to be here, are they going to be giving out turkeys?’”

“It’s a huge deal for the families in this community and in the Wynnewood and Bachman Lake communities that are in our Family Hope Center. It’s just a big deal for them, because a lot of them wouldn’t have Thanksgiving dinner otherwise.”

The Mavs Turkey Giveaway was also a big deal for Withey, he said, because of the blessings that have been bestowed upon him that he had a chance to share with others.

“We’re definitely very blessed to have the opportunities that we have,” Withey said. “And to be able to give back is something that I think everybody should do if they’re able to.”

“There are a lot of people that are hurting out there. To be able to help out as much as we can, I think that’s really important.”

Withey and Harris certainly did their part in helping out Buckner International. Their graciousness was well received by the families on hand.

“It definitely brings a lot of joy to be able to give back, but it also makes you just thankful for what you have,” Withey said. “Just to be able to help somebody out or have somebody tear up for a Thanksgiving dinner, that’s a big deal.”

“Everybody around was just very thankful, and it definitely puts you in a good mood. I definitely want to show the community that I care about them and appreciate them with all of the support that they give us. It was very special and I definitely would love to do it again.”

Harris participated in the Mavs Turkey Giveaway the last two years with guard Deron Williams, who is no longer with the Mavs. And he’s happy with the assist he got from Withey last week.

“Jeff has been a great asset to our team, especially on the court,” Harris said. “And it’s great to see him off the court showing his support as well.”

Between packing cars with Thanksgiving goodies, Harris and Withey took photos with some avid Mavs fans. Then there were some fans Harris smiled about who were interested in more than just food and photos.

Harris said: “Usually it’s more about getting a turkey, and then they try to slide in and say, ‘You’ve got some tickets in there as well?’ Hopefully with the way (Mavs owner Mark) Cuban has been making stuff more affordable, hopefully we definitely can see more of them at the games.”

As folks in the final cars were slowly driving up to receive their Thanksgiving blessings, Watson expounded on the affect the Mavs had on this joyous occasion.

“I love to see the Mavs giving back to the city and to the people,” Watson said. “A lot of them are their fans, so I think it’s great for them to come out and give back to the community.”

Hoops for Troops Commitment to Service

2017 Hoops For Troops

Thursday, November 9th, the Dallas Mavericks staff joined with Dallas Mavericks, Dennis Smith Jr. and Dorian Finney-Smith, dancers, ManiAACs, and Caliber Home Loans to host a “Commitment to Service” volunteerism event.

DALLAS – In celebration of the NBA’s Hoops for Troops week, the Dallas Mavericks partnered with approximately two dozen active military from NAS Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base on Thursday and boxed over 10,000 meals that will go to needy families in North Texas.

One of the active military personnel who helped box meals at American Airlines Center is Grand Prairie’s Tiffany Parker, who jumped at the chance to help those who could use a helping hand.

“This is a great opportunity for us to get out and serve,” Parker said. “Not only just serve the country, but to serve those who are less fortunate than us.”

“Being in the Air Force we’re always taught to service before self, and we have a wing man mentality. So we’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure the community is taken care of, and we’ll taking care of those others that are less fortunate than us.”

Along with the military personnel, Mavs rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr., second-year forward Dorian Finney-Smith, the ManiAACs, Mavs Dancers and members of Caliber Home Loans and Mavs staff also helped pack the 10,000-plus meals in less than one hour. The group packed a total of 10,080 meals of jambalaya that were delivered directly to the North Texas Food Bank.

“I think this is great,” Smith said. “It was a really good experience because as a kid this is something I always wanted.”

“Growing up in the area that I did (in Fayetteville, N.C.), I know a lot of kids that wanted something like this to happen to them. So I appreciate the opportunity and I look forward to doing a lot more in the future.”

Last year when he was a rookie during Hoops for Troops week, Finney-Smith helped build a ramp for those who use a wheelchair. So he was more than happy to return this year and offer his support again.

“I’m honored to be able to help the community and give back,” Finney-Smith said. “I love the opportunity to work with the community and make a difference.”

“Last year I built a wheelchair ramp for Hoops for Troops and it was fun, and this year I decided I’m going to pack some food.”

Finney-Smith feels especially indebted to the men and women of the military.

“They sacrifice a lot to be out there for this country,” Finney-Smith said. “To serve in the armed forces and help the world and the community is a great accomplishment.”

The NBA’s Hoops for Troops Week is in conjunction with Veterans Day, which is Saturday.

“Every year the NBA and all of the teams come together to celebrate Hoops For Troops week,” said Katie Edwards, the Director of Community Relations for the Mavs. “It’s a great time for the team, our players and all of our staff and volunteers to join with the military, and we work side-by-side to give back to the community.”

“We’ll do this every year and we like to change our impact and really do lots of different things. We’ve built wheelchair ramps, we’ve done partnerships with the food bank, and this year we were partnered with Feeding Children Everywhere to assemble the meals for those in need who are here in North Texas.”

Krystal Rivera, the Regional Manager for Feeding Children Everywhere, opened an office in Dallas this past year, and it didn’t take her long to figure out who was going to be one of her closest allies.

“We opened up an office here in Dallas as a response to Dallas being the third-largest food desert in America,” said Rivera, whose main headquarters is located in Orlando, Fla. “So when we moved to Dallas, I started reaching out to some really great companies who are known for giving back and being involved in the community, and a common theme was the Mavs.”

“The Mavs give back, they love on their community, and so I connected with the head of their foundation, who is Katie Edwards and who was so open to supporting us once she learned about our mission. I said, ‘Katie, let’s do this together and let’s make something work,’ and here we are.”

Bryan Bergjans, the National Director of Military & Veteran Lending for Caliber Home Loans, also partnered with the Mavs on Thursday’s project. Headquartered in Coppell, Caliber Home Loans work to meet the mortgage needs of the men and women who are serving – or who have served – in the United States Armed Forces.

“Any time we get an opportunity to partner up with the military and do community outreach, we want to do it,” Bergjans said. “The best way to get involved in the community is by doing stuff like this, so partnering up with Mavericks and having an opportunity to partner up with the Air Force really allows us to get involved with our community partners and show our commitment to serving the military and helping.”

“Any time you get to do things where you walk away feeling great about everything and you’re getting involved in the community, it’s fantastic. Caliber Home Loans is fantastic for supporting the military and the community, so any chance that we get in the future to partner up with the Mavericks, we’ll hopefully be able to do it.”

That support by Caliber Home Loans is much appreciated by Clay Jennings, who is a member of the NAS Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base. As music blared in the background while the volunteers were busy packing the boxes with food, Jennings explained what this symbolic day of serving meant to him.

“We wanted to bring out the holiday spirit, bring out the other functions about how the military serves our folks,” Jennings said. “We’re one percent or two percent of the country, so it’s extremely honorable for one, not forgetting about us, and two, it gives us another opportunity to give back in a different way.”

“I’m really humbled, really honored and I truly love this. It’s awesome, we’re thankful, and the public should know we’ve always got their back. No matter what their thoughts and political agenda are, we’re always there.”

A North Carolina State Wolfpack product, Smith can’t wait until next year when he hopes he’ll be selected again to help pay tribute to the military during the NBA’s Hoops for Troops week.

“I met a couple of great people and a fellow Wolfpack, so it’s been a good experience,” Smith said. “It’s all for a good cause — I’m 100 percent in for it.”

“They’re super excited, I came over here excited. Whenever I saw everybody and how excited they were that gave some more life to it, so it was really a good experience for me.”

Finney-Smith also left American Airlines Center with a warm and fuzzy feeling in his heart about his involvement with the troops.

“It’s an honor to be working alongside them knowing how much they sacrificed for the United States,” Finney-Smith said. “All of the people I’ve met through Hoops For Troops have been amazing. Hopefully I can continue doing it.”

Lung Transplant Recipient Lives Out His Dream at Mavs Game

DALLAS – The first item Tim Ervin wanted to check off his bucket list after he received a double lung transplant was to play the national anthem on his trumpet at a professional sporting event.

And thanks in large part to Neil Herskowitz, assistant equipment manager of the Dallas Mavericks, Irvin can now check that off his bucket list.

Ervin and Herskowitz struck up a friendship when they met this past April at a transplant reunion dinner at UT Southwestern in Dallas. Herskowitz found out about Ervin’s budding career playing the trumpet and wanted to help.

“I spoke (at the transplant reunion dinner) and played my trumpet,” Ervin said. “Neil came up to me and asked me if I would be interested (in playing the national anthem at a Mavs game). So the ball started rolling from there.”

And once that ball stopped rolling, Ervin was playing the national anthem at a recent Mavs’ game against the world champion Golden State Warriors before a sold out crowd of 19,857 at American Airlines Center.

It was a surreal scene for Ervin, who, for the last 25 years has been the Minister of Music for First Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant, TX.

“I’ve played the national anthem at many places, but never at a professional sporting event,” Ervin said. “I’ve played before crowds of 400-500 before, I’ve played for high school events, I’ve played for some college events, I’ve played weddings, I’ve played Taps for funerals for years. But this is probably – to this point – the largest crowd I’ve played for.”

And just think, Ervin never thought he would be blessed to witness a day like the one he experienced on Oct. 23. Because of his health scare due to his failing lungs, his dream of playing the trumpet again, he figured, was over.

“I was diagnosed in 2012 with pulmonary fibrosis,” the 59-year old Ervin said. “Then as the disease progressed the only option was a lung transplant, so I was recommended by my doctor in Shreveport, LA, to come to UT Southwestern in Dallas for an evaluation. That was in June of 2014. By then, I was to the point where I had quit playing the trumpet. I was having limited lung capacity in what I had to do.”

Then, Ervin received the telephone call that forever changed his life.

“I did three months of transplant evaluation where they test you to see if you’re strong enough to survive the surgery,” he said. “All of the other organs were in great shape, which was good.”

“To be honest with you, I thought I’d never play the trumpet again. I didn’t know that I was going to be able to be a candidate for a transplant. And as I went through that process and then you get that call and they say, ‘Mr. Ervin, we have lungs for you, how fast can you get to Dallas?’ ”

Ervin’s double lung transplant occurred on Oct. 9, 2014.

Herskowitz, the assistant equipment manager for the Mavs, can certainly relate to Ervin’s ordeal. Herskowitz’ life also took a turn for the worst until he received a double lung transplant on Oct. 11, 2015.

So as he heard Ervin discuss his journey during the transplant reunion dinner, it definitely resonated with him.

“Tim was the keynote speaker that night and so he gave a speech and then played his trumpet,” Herskowitz said. “As part of his introduction they said that he’s a life-long trumpet player and when he got sick he couldn’t play, and now that he’s healed and better and playing the trumpet again, one of his goals was to play in a national big-time sporting event.”

“So fortunately (the Mavs) were able to make that happen for him.”

Herskowitz and Ervin are both aware of their unique relationship, and of the second chance at life they’ve received.

“We’re bonded by our gratefulness and our good fortune, and having the (double lung) surgery and it being successful,” Herskowitz said. “But at the same time, he’s a married religious man with kids and I’m a single non-religious guy without kids.”

“But that’s the cool thing about transplants. It doesn’t really matter your beliefs or your background or really what you’ve got going on. That’s the link that brings people together, because without that, I probably would have never met him and really don’t have too much in common with him. But we know we have that shared experience and I was just happy that it worked out.”

While Ervin and Herskowitz may be polar opposites, they are both appreciative of the donor(s) who helped save their lives.

“There’s probably not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the donor, because that person. . .to me, that’s my hero,” said Ervin, who has been playing the trumpet since he was 11. “Because in their unselfishness, they became an organ donor so that I can live and many other people could live as well.”

“I’ve had many, many people come up to me the last three years and say, ‘I’m an organ donor now because I know you.’ So if I can put a face on transplants and on being an organ donor, then that’s probably the great honor from all this. Getting to play (the national anthem) was just kind of like the icing on the cake.”

So how well did Ervin play the trumpet during the national anthem at the Mavs’ game?

“The Mavs’ people were great in making that happen for him, and I think he did a great job,” Herskowitz said. “It was a really cool moment to take in, and I think he enjoyed it and hopefully the fans and everyone that got to witness it enjoyed it.”

“I know it was important for him, too, not just for himself, but just to show that people can have this (double lung) transplant and be successful and do things that a lot of people might think aren’t even possible.”

Before Ervin wowed the American Airlines Center crowd with his rendition of the national anthem, he and Herskowitz shared a fun moment.

“I joked with him beforehand,” Herskowitz said. “I said, ‘Hey man, this is big time right now. You’ve got to bring it.’”

“But he was ready, he was prepared and I think he crushed it. So it was awesome.”

Free2B Bullying Prevention Changes Behaviors

DALLAS – One could hear the deep passion in the voice of Dallas Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews as he spoke about the issues of bullying and its impact on kids today.

“Every time I hear something across the country about kids bringing guns or weapons to school or suicides, or just anything that’s harmful to our youth due to a bullying situation, it just really makes my heart hurt,” Matthews said. “We’ve all been to school before, we’ve all witnessed (bullying), we’ve all seen it and we all can probably think back and know a kid who was affected by it. And we can look back at ourselves and see what we did about it or what we didn’t do about it.”

With the help of the Mavs, Matthews jumped feet first into the bullying issue while doing his part to help eradicate something that is seriously affecting kids today.

Earlier this month the Mavs partnered with Life Changing Experiences and brought a Free 2B Bullying Prevention program to middle schools in the Dallas Independent School District. The program is a 3-D interactive, multi-media movie which provides teenagers with the courage and skills to intervene and change bullying behaviors. Matthews and others convened at Sam Tasby Middle School, where they spread the word and challenged students to help put an end to bullying.

“I really like this program,” said Latisha Judie, a seventh grade counselor at Sam Tasby Middle School. “Having Life Changing Experiences, along with the Dallas Mavericks, is an absolutely impactful opportunity for our students.

“The students have really enjoyed this program, it’s very engaging and interactive for the students. So it means a lot for us to have this program out here.”

The bullying program’s awareness has skyrocketed head-first to the forefront because October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Katie Edwards, the director of community relations for the Mavs, hailed the program as a real eye-opener for students.

“It’s a great program where kids actually get to interact with a 3-D movie where they can learn about bullying behaviors and how to stop them, but also learn how to tell a teacher, how to stand up to a bully and how it’s not OK to bully kids in your school,” Edwards said. “I think it’s really important for the Mavs to be involved in something like this as far as a community initiative.”

Jamel Jacobs, the host representing Life Changing Experiences who showed the 3-D movie at Sam Tasby Middle School, was delighted to have the Mavs on board to assist him in getting his point across to the students.

“All week long we’ve teamed up with the Dallas Mavericks to present the program, which we’re highly thankful for,” Jacobs said. “It is also (National) Bullying Prevention Month, so I think it was a good time to be out here to bring forth the message and make it happen in an interactive way.”

As he spoke to the students, Matthews pointed out that the advent of social media outlets has taken bullying soaring through the roof.

“When we were growing up you just had to worry about (bullying) at school,” Matthews said. “Now everybody’s got social media platforms and you can see anything that anyone says about you. It’s just a whole other realm of fear for parents because you can’t do anything about it. The best thing that you can do is to educate the kids to police themselves.”

Judie knows that it helps to bring a person of Matthews’ stature to her campus to help educate her students about the evils of bullying.

“Having a celebrity — especially an athlete on top of that — come to speak to our students is huge,” Judie said. “It’s going to be very powerful coming from somebody that is elite, somebody who is seen as famous to the students, because they really look up to the people that are in the sports arena. So I think for the students they’re going to take that message more to heart.”

Although athletes’ words may be powerful and insightful, Matthews let it known that athletes get bullied, too.

“It’s kind of a double-edge sword being an athlete,” Matthews said. “I’m no better than anybody else in this room, but we have more responsibility by society because of who we are and what we do and that we are looked up to as heroes.”

“One of the definitions of bullying is the idea of imbalance of power, but we’re all made the same, we’re all made evenly. There’s no sense in you bullying anybody in the first place.”

Matthews sharing his thoughts on bullying was paramount to what Edwards and the Mavs were attempting to achieve in the DISD middle schools.

“I think it’s really great that Wes could come out today and talk to the kids about bullying and how it’s not OK,” Edwards said. “When they have someone like that come – their role model and an idol to them – for him to be able to come out and see them here at their school, it just brings excitement to it and really helps them understand the program better. He can talk to them about his experiences and what it was like for him growing up and what kids can do if there’s a bully in their school.”

Angel Perez, a 12-year old six-grader at Sam Tasby Middle School, said he was bullied at school. And the results weren’t pretty.

“I told my friends first,” Perez said, “and it ended up being a group fight.”

Because of the Free2B Bullying Prevention program, Perez now knows that if he’s bullied again, he said he will: “Tell a trusted adult, teacher or counselor.” He also said he learned that “bullying is not cool,” and that he’ll “go get an adult” if he sees someone being bullied.

Mavs guards Seth Curry and Yogi Ferrell were also featured in the 3-D interactive multi-media movie which was played at Dallas ISD middle schools during the first week of October. And the visit by Matthews at Sam Tasby Middle School was the crown jewel.

“Wesley Matthews bein
g here today teaming up with Free 2B has brought more awareness and kept the kids more engaged with the message,” Jacobs said. “What we’re trying to do is bring folks an awareness about bullying by wrapping technology around our message. I’ve actually had several students come up to me after the presentation saying how impactful the message was as far their experience with being bullied. I get lots of handshakes and high-fives and thanks for coming out.”

Jacobs acknowledged that those who are bullies as a youngster often grow up to be bullies as an adult, and with devastating results. That’s why, he said, they must reach the students at an early age and actively try to get them to change their bullying ways while they are still young.

“I think it’s a really sad story about what happens every day,” Edwards said. “But there are kids who are bullied either in school or online through social media. And to hear about the really sad stories of suicide and kids who are just not getting through because of bullying, it’s something that can be stopped, something that’s preventable. So we’re really happy to be able to partner on something that can help fix that problem.”

Barea’s humanitarian trip to Puerto Rico

Practice Report: J.J. Barea

J.J. Barea describes the devastation that hit his native Puerto Rico and the relief efforts he's made with help from Mark Cuban and the citizens of Dallas.

DALLAS – From a logistical standpoint, there were a lot of important moving parts that occurred in order for Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea to make his humanitarian trip to Puerto Rico this past Tuesday.

For starters, a bevy of Mavs’ employees were heavily involved in the process of executing a journey of this magnitude. Particularly since Barea and a dozen of his close friends used one of the airplanes owned by Mavs owner Mark Cuban to fly into the San Juan airport while the once picturesque island is still recovering from the horrific devastation recently caused by Hurricane Maria.

Robert Hart, the senior vice-president of Mark Cuban Companies, admitted that this mission of goodwill was no ordinary road trip. And layers upon layers had to be uncovered before the trip could be consummated.

“It took a lot of people’s efforts,” Hart said. “This is the first time that we’ve ever had to do something this fast for a humanitarian kind of event. I know Mark has been really impressed with our aviation department, because of how fast they could turn this around. Mark is expecting everything at warped speed, and this was really done at warped speed.”

Hart said Cuban first approached him about flying to Puerto Rico last Friday afternoon. That occurred not long after Barea asked Cuban if he could borrow one of his planes so he could take supplies to Puerto Rico, and also bring back his mother and grandmother, among others.

Cuban’s 757 airplane, which the Mavs use to fly to road games, was available. Then came the arduous task of contacting officials in Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, to make sure the flight from Dallas could occur.

“I was in contact with the pilot and all the guys that run the Mavericks’ plane,” Barea said. “And after 100 or more emails and trying to get clearance from Puerto Rico – there were a lot of phone calls to Washington, back to Puerto Rico, back to Washington — finally we got cleared and then we were able to go.”

Since he is a native of Puerto Rico, Barea had to be the main ambassador in facilitating the trip.

“FEMA and the government in Puerto Rico were in control of what aircraft could land in San Juan,” Hart said. “J.J. facilitated and worked directly with the governor of Puerto Rico and his advisors, and was able to work with FEMA and facilitate our ability to fly into San Juan. There were a lot of limitations on our ability to fly in there. You couldn’t just be able to come in and give them a time and date. They had to make sure the traffic was free to bring in aid and supplies from the government and others.”

The Mavs also had to gently work around other pertinent restrictions.

“We were not able to fly at night, so we worked around how we were going to get in there at an earlier enough time that we could unload the aircraft and get out of San Juan before evening,” Hart said. “At that point we also worked with relationships that J.J. had as it relates to getting donations of a lot of soft goods that were needed down to Puerto Rico, as well as the Dallas Mavericks also had connections with charitable organizations who made some generous donations.”

The Mavs’ plane eventually left Dallas Love Field at 5:30 Tuesday morning and was back in Dallas at approximately 7:45 Tuesday evening.

“When we learned that J.J. wanted to take the plane down to Puerto Rico, we were happy to help in any way that we could,” said Katie Edwards, the Mavs’ director of community relations. “There were many emails and lots of people involved here and in Puerto Rico helping us get permission to land and arrange the flight, as well as coordinate donations from J.J.’s Foundation as well as several Mavs partners.”

Dirk Pettitt, the operations director for Mark Cuban Companies, said the belly of the plane the Mavs flew to Puerto Rico was full with supplies. That includes 32 generators/inverters that weighed 140 pounds apiece, 14,000 pounds of water, 10,000 pounds of food, 3,000 pounds of medical supplies, diapers, clothing, cleaning supplies, pet food and toilet paper.

“We bulked out our Boeing 757, meaning that we didn’t exceed our weight capacity, but we exceeded the maximum room capacity,” Pettitt said. “It was stuffed like a pig. And we took down enough fuel to circle for an hour. If we could not land (in Puerto Rico right away), we had enough fuel to get back to Miami and hold until we could get back down there. But ultimately we were able to get into San Juan, we did get fuel and we flew back to Dallas non-stop.”

Danny Bollinger, a photographer for the Mavs for the past 17 years, was on the plane with Barea and 10 others so he could chronicle the images which so many have seen on TV. Bollinger said it took approximately four hours to load the plane with its supplies, and just 90 minutes to unload it.

“On the trip, we just stayed on the tarmac of the airport,” Bollinger said. “They brought in big military-type trucks (to unload the supplies). A bunch of marines, a bunch of locals, J.J.’s family were all there.”

The entire scene was so surreal to Barea. To see the once quaint island of Puerto Rico struggling to stay afloat nearly brought him to tears.

“It’s awful,” Barea said of Puerto Rico. “We’ve been through it before, but nothing like this. Emotionally, (Tuesday) was a little tough when my mom saw me.

“My other brothers are in the states, too, so she was out of contact, but now they’re good. They’re here and they can do a lot, my mom especially. . .Now she can really get on the phones and start helping out a little bit more.”

Dallas attorney Braulio Gonzalez, who grew up in Puerto Rico and is a life-long friend of Barea’s, painted a dark description of things back home.

“It’s like landing in Dallas in December as opposed to landing in Dallas in July,” said Gonzalez, who was on the plane Tuesday with Barea. “Puerto Rico is a beautiful island where mountains are green everywhere, the beaches are amazing blue — and now it’s just brown.

“It doesn’t look like paradise any more. I’m sure it will again, but when we were flying in you start looking and it just looks like a bomb went off. You were lucky if you saw trees with leaves on them.”

Gonzalez credits the Mavs for stepping in and helping the folks in Puerto Rico during this stressful time in their life.

“Mark has always been gracious,” Gonzalez said. “Mark is a true dude, he’s got a big heart and he’s always there. It takes a lot of guts to say, ‘Hey, here’s the plane, take it, whatever you need.’ Mark is truly family.”

Gian Clavell, an undrafted rookie from Colorado State, said one of the reasons he signed with the Mavs this summer was because of the family-like atmosphere they instill.

“That’s why I picked the Mavericks, because of the kind of people that they are,” said Clavell, who also grew up in Puerto Rico. “They care about you.

“From top to bottom, they’re the best people and I couldn’t have made a better decision. That tells you what kind of guy Mark Cuban is, and the Dallas organization. That lets you know that they care about you and your family.”

That message of family-first was amplified even more when Mavs coach Rick Carlisle allowed Barea to skip the first day of practice on Tuesday so he could fly to Puerto Rico.

“When you play for the Mavericks or you work for the Mavericks and you’re a part of Mark’s family, he understands these types of situations,” Carlisle said. “It’s a catastrophic situation down there. People like Mark, they give their heart and soul to people that are the most important to them. It’s great to see, because I know it’s a really tough thing for J.J. to be going through. There’s a lot of attention on it, a lot of turmoil down there, no power, the streets are flooded, four-five hour gas lines. Just craziness down there.”

While the myriad of challenges the Mavs had to overcome in order to get to Puerto Rico were almost like trying to thread a needle, they deemed the critical mission as a success.

“Communication was extremely difficult, as there are no phones and many places are running on generators,” Edwards said. “Wal-Mart and many others donated supplies, water and generators.”

“And we had staff jumping in to leave their normal jobs to buy satellite phones and extension cords and all sorts of things to make sure they had the most critical needs taken care of. I think one thing that is amazing about working for the Mavericks is how quickly we can come together to make things happen.”

Hart said the Mavs will continue to jump through hoops and make other humanitarian trips to Puerto Rico to help those affected by Hurricane Maria.

“We received good news that we now have clearances for both our aircraft to make humanitarian aid flights to (Puerto Rico),” Hart said. “Our 757 will be making a second trip tomorrow (Friday).

“Also, in conjunction with our 767 operator — Atlas Airlines — our 767 will be making its first trip to (Puerto Rico) this coming Monday.”

Hart pointed out that Pettitt was able to accomplish his duties during the mission to Puerto Rico while basically working with half of his staff.

“It was a herculean task what he did to coordinate the logistics of being able to work with our operator of the 757 as well as all the different entities that were donating supplies to the airport, and handle the loading in time for the plane to leave at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning,” Hart said. “Usually we have two people like Dirk that’s working on that.”

“But Dirk was going solo during this period, so it was quite a challenge because Dirk’s colleague was out of town on vacation.”

Indeed, the mercurial behind-the-scenes activities where the Mavs had to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s in rapid-like fashion were remarkable.

“Mark Cuban was awesome, and all the staff with the plane situation,” Barea said. “It’s awesome the way this franchise and this team and the head guy, Mark and coach – they run this.”

“It’s a family and I’m proud and I’ll always be here.”

Hart, meanwhile, complimented those Mavs employees who dropped whatever they were doing to help Barea make this memorable trip to Puerto Rico, where 96 percent of the folks are without power and 48 percent are without drinking water. The response time is an accomplishment the Mavs are proud of.

“We’ve had to do things quickly in a task on certain things,” Hart said. “But this was kind of a lot of different moving parts that had to be addressed in very short order with limited communications on the other end, because we couldn’t get a hold of all the people because there weren’t any cell towers and there wasn’t any electricity in some areas, so it was very difficult.

“I think it was an amazing accomplishment by all the different people that were involved.”

And for the Mavs, because they were able to accomplish all of this at warped speed made the outcome even more rewarding.

Christmas Comes Early at Readers 2 Leaders

DALLAS – Time and time again, Norma Nelson took stock of the computers and chairs in the Computer Lab at Readers 2 Leaders reading instruction school and knew some changes desperately needed to be made.

The computers were outdated, the software was slow and the chairs were falling apart. And those three components at the West Dallas school made the lab less conducive to learning.

So Nelson applied for a grant from the Mavs Foundation – the foundation arm of the Dallas Mavericks. And the next thing she knew, the Mavs equipped Readers 2 Leaders with a new Reading & Learning Center, a separate Computer Lab, 15 brand new computers, chairs and computer desks.

“The kids walked in and I thought, ‘Well, I walked into a room full of happiness,’ ‘’ said Nelson, the executive director at Readers 2 Leaders. “I walked in and was surrounded by the kids all with smiles on their face who were excited to see the change.”

The urgent changes came with more space for the kids to learn, and up-to-date computers and software for them to keep pace with their contemporaries. Not to mention a warm environment to study and play while sitting in some user-friendly chairs.

“The computers are very cool,’’ said 11-year old Adrian Riuz, who has been a student at Readers 2 Leaders for four years. “The others were good computers, but they’re not really as good as these.”

Representatives from the Mavs Foundation, the Seth Curry Foundation, Pro Players Foundation and PPG/Glidden were on hand for the unveiling of the Computer Lab and Reading & Learning Center on September 11. Curry also stopped by to offer his support and share some words of encouragement with the students.

“The kids are very excited about the rooms, and I wanted to come in and help put in a computer lab and a reading room for the kids,” Curry said. “Like I was telling them earlier, my parents stressed to me the importance of school work and reading at a young age. So any time I can come in and use some resources that I have to help, it feels good to do that.”

Readers 2 Leaders tutors kids ages three through 12 who need extra assistance in reading so they can grow up and live a productive life. They offer in-school, after-school and summer camp programs, and were taken aback by the Mavs’ generous gifts.

Frank Gonzalez, a Readers 2 Leaders board member, said: “This is something that’s going to exceed everyone’s expectations for sure, especially the kids. Giving them access to having a computer allows them to be able to start thinking differently, and being able to have access to information that probably they didn’t have before is going to expand their horizons in so many different ways.”

Gonzalez applauded the Mavs for stepping into the community and lending a helping hand.

“I think its speaks really highly of the Mavericks’ organization to be able to reach out to the community and to the kids, and really show interest in reaching out and being able to help out and be an outreach to the youths,” Gonzalez said. “All the kids need is an opportunity to be able to better themselves.”

And that opportunity came compliments of the Mavs Foundation.

“We’re just so incredibly grateful for the support of the Mavs Foundation,” Nelson said. “The Computer Lab that we had before was falling apart. So when we found out about this opportunity, we applied thinking it would be a great opportunity for the kids to be able to walk into a lab that was brand new, that was a Dallas Mavericks theme. We applied and we were lucky enough to be selected and it’s just been incredible to see how excited and happy the kids are about this new place.”

Nelson admitted the school’s previous computers and chairs had seen their best days.

“Actually they were used computers that were donated to us,” Nelson said. “The software was kind of running behind and it was hard to update them and keep them current.”

“The chairs that we had were hand-me-downs, and a lot of them were ripped and they had seen some use and they were at the end of their life, so it was just so nice to have brand new furniture and brand new computers. We knew we needed new ones and it’s a big expense, so this was an amazing opportunity.”

An opportunity the Mavs have been doing across the Dallas/Fort Worth area for many years.

“That’s what’s great to see – the look on (the kids’) faces,” Mavs Foundation president Floyd Jahner said. “And the fact that with that excitement they’re going to really use the computers and hopefully keep reading more and be successful in school.

“That’s the end goal: to complete the education and really further the advancement in life.”

Curry noticed the unbridled joy and uncontrollable enthusiasm the students displayed when their teachers finally led them to the Computer Lab and Reading & Learning Center. As the students anxiously walked into the two rooms, it was as if this was Christmas in September.

“They were really genuinely excited,” Curry said. “They came in there and were jumping around and screaming. That was fun to watch. You obviously want the kids to use it and learn from it. But to see them having fun with it at the same time, that’s important, too.”

Creating Happy Summer Memories with Seth Curry

Seth Curry hosts Jr. NBA camp

Check out a recap of a Jr. NBA camp hosted by Seth Curry inside the Mavs' practice facility!

DALLAS – When Seth Curry thought about developing a summer basketball camp for kids, he knew he wanted to challenge them to tap into their mental capacity, not just into their athletic abilities.

Thus, in order to become one of the 100 kids chosen to participate in the free one-day Seth Curry Jr. NBA Camp, the campers had to submit an essay on why they should be the one chosen for this very special camp. Hundreds of applications were filed and read by Curry, who personally hand-picked the final 100 kids.

“I wanted to put on a back-to-school clinic for underprivileged kids to come out here for a free day of basketball to learn from me and the great coaches here,” Curry said. “The kids had to write a short essay on why they wanted to come to the camp, and my team and I read through them and picked out the 100 kids that were going to come.“

“I feel like I have a connection to each one of these kids who came, I know a little bit about their story. Not really by their face, but just reading their essays and knowing what some of the kids are going through and why they wanted to be here and how much they love basketball.”

The camp, held September 9 at the Dallas Mavericks’ practice facilities, is dear to Curry’s heart. His father, Dell Curry, played in the NBA from 1986-2002 and was known for hosting basketball camps for kids.

“My dad put on a camp for kids like this every year for pretty much his whole 16-year career, so I was able to watch what he did and wanted to have one of these (camps) myself growing up,” Curry said. “I came to camps like these as a kid and it was a lot of fun. They were some of my greatest memories growing up.”

“I’m fortunate to be able to flip the roles and be able to teach these kids.”

Shortly after the camp started, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle popped in and spoke to the kids. He also invited kids to tell the group of campers why they wanted to be a part of Curry’s camp.

“Coach Carlisle was talking to the kids and one kid came up and was explaining how he wanted to come so bad because he wasn’t able to do anything this summer with his family because they had to move and were looking for a house, so they weren’t able to go on vacation,” Curry said. “I was fortunate enough to put on this camp and it’s probably his bright spot of the summer before he goes back to school.”

The importance of the Jr. NBA Camp isn’t lost on Carlisle, who doubles as the president of the NBA Coaches Association.

“The Jr. NBA is a really important initiative in the league office,” Carlisle said. “It’s really important to the Coaches Association and it’s great to see guys like Seth Curry taking the lead and having a camp like this.”

“When I spoke to a few of the kids, their essay topics were wide-ranging, but all very sincere. So it’s a really cool thing.”

Ben Hunt, the manager of camps and community basketball for the Mavs, said it was cool for Curry to be thought-provoking and have the kids create an essay to gain entry into the camp.

“Having a clinic like this with Seth and the Mavs Basketball Academy coaches is just a wonderful opportunity for the kids to be here with us at this world-class practice facility,” Hunt said. “And as part of the Jr. NBA, we can help them develop confidence, team work and have a lot of fun.”

“Each and every one of these kids came in with different experiences. They had to go through the application process, and obviously they did a wonderful job because they’re here. And it was tremendous, too, that Seth took the time to read each and every one of those essays, and now they’re here and they get this opportunity – it’s really special.”

At the camp, the kids learned everything from ball-handling, dribbling and passing skills, to the ideal form utilized to shoot a basketball.

“Another important part of the game now is playing without the basketball, and that’s agility,” Hunt said. “Using their foot work, getting some foot speed and being able to maneuver through defenses and be more comfortable with a ball in their hands when that time comes.”

“We have some kids here who may play the game. We have some kids here who this may be the first time they’ve picked up a basketball. But they love the Mavs and they love Seth Curry and they love what we’re doing.”

Curry loves the fact that he’s touching lives in a positive way, changing attitudes and making a lasting difference in the community.

“First of all, I just wanted them to have fun and have good memories,” Curry said. “You want to teach them drills and you want them to get better at basketball. But they’re at the age where they just want to have fun and just be around the kids and be around NBA players like myself, and have good memories. I just want them to go to school next week and tell their friends they had a good time at this camp, and that will be a success for me.”

Before headed back on the court to work with the kids, Curry mentioned the difficult process of narrowing that list down to 100 campers.

“It was going to be 100 kids no matter how many people applied or tried to come,” he said. “It was just me reading through whichever ones I liked. Some of the kids are going through hard times off the court with their family, some of the kids were explaining how much they love basketball and how bad they want to be here. It just depended on how they wrote it and what message they were trying to give off. There were a lot of great stories from the kids who are at this camp and I’m glad we could create this special day for them.”