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.
The Mavericks officially opened training camp on Tuesday morning, but one player wasn’t in attendance because some things are bigger than basketball.
“Usually, when you come in the water is so blue and beautiful. The palm trees are so green and vibrant,” Barea told Mavs.com. “Today, everything is just flat. From the air it was easy to see how physically devastated the island is.”
In lieu of significant federal aid, many athletes in America have launched online fundraisers to raise whatever money they can. That includes Barea, whose YouCaring relief fund had raised more than $120,000 as of Wednesday morning and has been shared online more than 5,000 times. But Mavs owner Mark Cuban decided to take it one step further, loaning the longtime Maverick his plane so Barea could load it up with roughly 40,000 pounds of supplies and deliver them to the people that need them most.
“I am lucky to have an owner like Mark Cuban that has gigantic planes and a bigger heart,” Barea told Mavs.com. “It took just one text to him and five minutes later we were in contact with everyone at the plane. A few hours later we were getting it loaded with food, water, and generators. We bought every generator we could find. We cleaned the shelves. We got it together very quickly.”
More important to Barea, on a personal level, was reuniting with his family. The point guard and his older brothers have been unable to contact their mother and father since the storm hit a week ago. Unfortunately, the people of Puerto Rico are accustomed to waiting out hurricanes — Barea said they were once without power for a month after a storm when he was in ninth grade. However, their past experiences gave the point guard faith that his parents would be OK.
“I was a little more calm because I knew they were prepared for the storm. We know how to handle these things,” Barea told Mavs.com. “But five days without speaking to your family is tough. It’s such a habit. I know people to this day that still haven’t spoken with their families. It’s pretty crazy. My mom has been so stressed and not being able to communicate with me or my other brothers who also live in the states. So seeing her today and hugging her was a good feeling and truly a relief. It means everything to me.”
Barea’s mother returned with him to Dallas on Tuesday night, but his father remained in Puerto Rico to help distribute the supplies and manage the funds raised.
Help is still needed. Gov. Ricardo Rossello told NBC News that without significant aid, the island will “collapse into a humanitarian crisis.” Millions remain without power or water, thousands of homes were completely destroyed, and while planes are able to fly in to deliver supplies, none are flying out of the island, leaving people stranded at airports or anywhere else they can find shelter. The island is devastated.
Barea is grateful that Cuban allowed use of his plane, but the owner better keep his cell phone handy, because Barea hopes to continue using it. His family is safe, but thousands of others are not. Much like the recovery from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, there’s no easy end in sight to getting things back to normal.
“Puerto Rico is such a small island,” he told Mavs.com. “Trying to help people put things back in order is a must for me and the life I was given here. This is something that I will feel forever. And I think help is going to be needed for at least the next year, maybe longer. We will just have to see.”