DALLAS — After being forced to miss much of the 2016-17 schedule due to a nagging left calf injury, Dallas Mavericks veteran guard J.J. Barea hopes that a summer of rest serves him well heading into the upcoming season.
Last season, Barea played in just 35 games while battling through the lingering calf injury to average 10.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists during 22.0 minutes per outing. He also showed what he could do when he was available for the Mavericks last season, connecting on 41.4 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from behind the three-point arc while operating as one of the team’s top playmakers off the bench. However, after playing in the fewest games since making just 33 appearances during his rookie year, Barea says he expects to give his team much more of a lift this season.
“You know, personally it was tough,” the cat-quick guard admitted after the conclusion of the ’16-17 season. “I’ve never been through what I went through (last season), but I learned a lot. I learned a lot about my injuries and about my calves, but I was able to finish healthy. … I’m going to be able to really work more on my body than basketball. With basketball, I think I’m in a good place and in a good rhythm knowing the game. So, I’ve just got to get to work on my body and be able to have a good year next year.”
Barea averaged 16.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists while competing in nine of the Mavericks’ first 10 games last season, picking up where he left off at after a career-best ’15-16 campaign. He was then forced out of the lineup after straining his calf during a 90-83 defeat in Boston on Nov. 16, setting the stage for a injury-riddled season.
All told, Barea missed 24 of 26 games from Nov. 18 to Jan. 5 before going down again during a 112-107 loss to Utah on Jan. 20. He later returned after sitting out 20 consecutive games, tallying nine points and three assists in 14 minutes during a 105-96 home win over Brooklyn on March 9. The 11-year veteran played in 17 of the final 19 games from there, including a 111-104 win in Brooklyn on March 19 in which he registered 20 points and seven assists. And after averaging 12.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists during five games in the month of April, Barea vows to come back stronger this season while serving as a mentor for his young teammates.
“When it happens, I’ve just got to be a little bit more patient. But hopefully I’m going to work on it, so it won’t happen again and I can go from there,” Barea said while putting his previous injuries behind him. “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. But anytime I could go out there and help the team out as much as I could, just being out there with them and finishing the year out was good for me.
“Now, for me, I always just want to be out there and produce on the court. But outside the court, just helping out and keeping (younger teammates) positive. With everything I went through early, I just want to show them things to do and stuff like that. Just helping as much as I can.”