You just never know when the lives and careers of two people are going to intersect.
A couple of battle-proven NBA veterans who had a connection that started when they were just beginning their NBA journeys will be back on the court together Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Clippers and Mavericks play at American Airlines Center.
J.J. Barea has had a long, distinguished NBA career that started back in 2006 when he earned his way onto the Mavericks’ roster that then was coached by Avery Johnson.
In his rookie season, Barea was assigned to the Mavericks’ NBA Development League team, the Fort Worth Flyers. He would spend eight games with that team and was a holy terror at the D-League level. He averaged 27.3 points, 7.8 assists and 5 rebounds per game. He shot 43.8 percent from 3-point range.
Barea was the D-League performer of the week, which was about all the time the Mavericks needed to see out of him at that level.
Nobody knew it at the time, but a month before Barea showed up in Fort Worth, the Flyers had another smallish guard that also would go on to NBA greatness. In December of 2006, Lou Williams passed through Fort Worth, on assignment from the Philadelphia 76ers.
Williams would average 26 points, 8 assists and 4.7 rebounds in three games with the Flyers before being recalled to the big club.
“Oh wow,” Barea said when asked to jog his memory about what kind of roster the Flyers had. “I remember him going there. We just weren’t there at the same time. That’s pretty crazy.”
The Flyers had a brief two-season life span in Fort Worth. They made the playoffs both seasons, and if Barea and Williams had been there all season in 2006-07, they probably would have won the league championship instead of getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs.
But there’s no doubting that Barea and Williams are two of the minor-league’s best success stories.
Barea has gone on to a 14-year NBA career that has defied all odds. He won a championship with the Mavericks in 2011 and he’s been one of the most dependable guards in franchise history.
Williams, who was in his second NBA season when he had his cameo with the Flyers, has gone on to win Sixth Man of the Year three times and has averaged 21.4 points over the last three seasons.
The Clippers, like the Mavericks, will bring a five-game winning streak into Tuesday’s game and Williams has averaged nearly 22 points per game during that run.
Looking back on it, Barea has an appreciation for how talented that Flyers’ team was back in the day.
“We had a squad,” he said. “We were pretty good. When I went down there, we won seven of eight. That was good times at the Fort Worth convention center.”
In addition to Barea and Williams, another member of that team was Kalenna Azubuike, who would go on to have a nice NBA career.
But Azubuike’s biggest claim to fame was when he joined Golden State in the 2006-07 season. A Warriors personnel executive asked then-coach Don Nelson what he thought of Azubuike, to which Nelson responded:
“Great, one of my favorite drinks.”