DALLAS – It’s a club nobody wants to be a member of.
J.J. Barea cringed when watching Game 5 of the NBA finals and seeing superstar Kevin Durant hopping on his left foot, reaching for his right Achilles and then plopping onto his backside, clearly in pain.
Barea suffered a torn Achilles tendon on Jan. 11. Tuesday marked the five-month mark in his rehabilitation.
The Mavericks’ respected veteran could send all sorts of messages to Durant, who on Monday in Toronto suffered what is believed to be the same injury as Barea. But there is no way to sugarcoat anything about what arguably is the toughest injury to recover from in basketball.
One thing that Barea said Durant can without question expect is a long, arduous and at times boring grind that will not end for Durant until sometime in 2020.
“I’m five months into it,” the 34-year-old guard said. “I’m basically coming in everyday from 9 to 12 in the morning and I do weights, then do court work and then go back to weights. But I’m basically doing it all on the court already. I’m doing pick-and-rolls, floaters, 3-point shots, a little bit of conditioning. I feel great.”
However, the daily rehab is something Barea can’t wait to get past. He no doubt will chat with Durant about rehab. It’s something that players with similar injuries often do. The realistic picture Barea will paint is one of tiny steps at first. Doctors still won’t let him land after full jumps. He’s been jumping up and landing on a raised box for the last few days. That’s a step toward being allowed to fully jump and land without fear of any setbacks after the surgery.
So far, there have been none of those setbacks. But there have been tedious parts of the rehab.
“Just being here, coming back to the same place you’ve been at all year,” he said. “It’s a grind, just doing the same thing. You got to be super-patient with it. But the good thing is you feel a little better every day when you wake up in the morning – like, hey, I can do this today. I’m a little better today.
“It’s something new. I never had to do this all summer. I’m learning a lot. But it’s a grind. You got to wake up every day and you don’t have a game to play. It’s not like, I got a game on Friday and I want to be able to play. No. You just got to grind and compete in drills by yourself. You end up competing against yourself.”
The rehab to make sure he can be ready for training camp – and his doctors are convinced Barea will have no physical issues by October – are the bad part of this summer. But it’s an offseason with a lot of great things on the horizon for Barea.
No. 1, he and wife, Viviana Ortiz, are expecting a son in July. “We’re super-excited, obviously,” Barea said. For that reason, the couple are spending virtually all of the summer in Dallas. Barea went to Puerto Rico for a few weeks shortly after the season was done. But because of rehab and the impending birth, he’s been in Dallas most of the time.
That will change some in July and August. Barea has his annual basketball camp for kids on July 1, before the expected birth of their son, and his charity golf tournament is in Puerto Rico in early August. Also, it’s still possible Barea could be involved with the Puerto Rico national team in the basketball world cup.
“I 100 percent want to do it,” Barea said. “It’s a possibility. A couple weeks before, I’ll decide. It’s going to be hard to do, but I don’t want to close the door on it. My doctors say I should be able to do whatever I want on the court by August.”
Barea, who will have to take care of a new contract with the Mavericks when free agency begins on July 1, has yet to have extended discussions with the Mavericks about whether the World Cup is realistic. But he knows that, at 34, this probably would be one of the last times he’d be able to play in the international tournament.
“I’m leaving the door open,” he said. “I know it’s going to be hard. We’ll see how it plays out. If I keep going the way I’m going, by August I should be feeling really good, so we’ll see.”
In addition, Barea has high hopes for the 2019-20 season, which will be his 14th. And he’s planning on being just as effective as he was before the injury last season, when he averaged 10.9 points and 5.6 assists per game.
In fact, he hopes to be even better in one area.
“My jump shot is going to be way better because I’m going to shoot more than ever in the summer,” he said. “It feels great. I’m super-positive about it. I saw the doctor last week and he was super-excited. Things are looking great. No setbacks and I feel great.”