LAS VEGAS – Walking away from basketball as a player is a difficult moment for any player.
For J.J. Barea, though, the future is so bright that he can move on to the next part of his career with satisfaction and a smile.
“It is tough, but my career was amazing,” Barea said Sunday while working at the MGM Resorts Summer League in a yet-to-be-defined role with the Mavericks. “I don’t regret anything. I’m still playing in the pro league in Puerto Rico. But if I got to walk away from playing right now, I’ll be super-happy. I don’t regret anything and I’m ready for the next step, if you know what I mean. I’m super-happy with what I did and I’m looking forward to coaching in the future.”
Key words there are “in the future.”
Barea has met with Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison and they have agreed Barea will work for the Mavericks.
In what capacity remains to be ironed out. But Barea said his coaching career will be launched with the Mavericks.
“I know I like coaching,” he said. “Every time I do it, I like it even more. It comes easy, comes natural. Especially here in Dallas. And especially with Dallas. It’s my home. The Dallas Mavericks are my team. I feel like I can really help.”
As for what the role will be, Barea and the team both are willing to be flexible. For the moment, he said the game plan is to be with the team part time, spending some time with his family and mixing in coaching, scouting and doing whatever else the staff needs of him.
“I’m going to be involved, someway, somehow,” he said. “We’re working on exactly what it is. I’m going to come and go, but when I’m in, I’m going to be helping players. I’m going to be around the coaches, get experience, keep learning and help the players as much as I can.
“And then we’re going to figure out if I’ll do a little scouting when I’m away. We’ll work out those details pretty soon. But I had a great meeting with Nico.”
Barea came out to the summer league for the weekend. He wanted to meet with the coaches, sit through the meetings and see what that end of the business is like behind closed doors.
He’s seeing all the things that players don’t normally get to take part in.
“It’s good that I came,” he said. “You need to know if you really want to spend time doing this. And I like it. It comes naturally.
“I wanted to meet with everyone, wanted to be around. I met with the coaches this morning and I like being with them. It’s good for me to be involved, but have my time to take a little break, too, enjoy my kids a little bit and then later in the future, get back to it.”
Barea has come away impressed with his early impressions of the Jason Kidd era as the Mavericks’ coach.
While Kidd has been in Europe tending to other Maverick matters, his fingerprints and the style of play he wants are evident with the summer-league team.
“I like what we’re doing, everything new that we’re doing,” Barea said. “So I want to stay involved so they know in the future in a couple years if I want to go into it full time, I’ll go into it full time.
“Right now, I think the next couple years are going to be more about getting experience, staying around the game as much as I can, keep learning and when the time is right, get back into it full time.”
Barea spent 11 of his 14 seasons with the Mavericks and played last season in Spain, an experience which he said was very fulfilling.
But his heart was always with returning to the Mavericks, and the feeling was mutual.
“One of the blessings we have with the Mavericks is we have just a great rich tradition of our former players being welcome to come back and be part of what we do,” said summer-league coach Greg St. Jean. “Getting J.J. here has obviously been really beneficial for him, but I enjoy having him on the bench, having another high-level basketball mind to help talk to our players. We got a really good summer-league staff and we just bolstered it.
“We’ve had guys from that 2011 championship team come in and help these young men. So being a Maverick is something that goes far beyond just wearing this logo. You’re here for life, so those guys are always welcome to come help us.”