It was September of 2017 when Hurricane Maria struck J.J. Barea’s homeland, the island of Puerto Rico, causing massive damage and loss of life while wrecking property in what became the worst natural disaster in the island’s history.
Now, 16 months later, Puerto Rico is suffering from yet another natural disaster as a state of emergency was issued after it was hit with a 6.4-magnitude earthquake and multiple aftershocks this past Monday. And on Tuesday, an earthquake measuring 5.8 rocked Puerto Rico.
The destruction shook homes and businesses off their foundations, caused landslides on highways, knocked out power and forced hospitals to be evacuated. Officials said it is the most destructive earthquake to hit the island in 100 years.
Barea, the Mavericks’ veteran guard, is trying to wrap his head around the latest disaster.
“It’s bad luck, it happens, it’s part of life,” Barea told Mavs.com. “You just got to be ready for it and try to be as prepared as you can for it and then go from there.
“But it’s sad to see Puerto Rico going through that again.”
Part of Puerto Rico was shut down to protect a weak power grid and one of the main power plants on the south side of the island sustained some damage. Meanwhile, Barea noted that his family was unscathed by the devastation.
“My family is good,” Barea said. “My family is all over here (in the states). My wife’s family was there, but they’re all good.
“It was more in the south (part of the island). But I’m still paying attention to everything that’s going on, so we’ll see.”
At one point earlier this week the entire island lost power and the San Juan airport was running on backup generators. As of Wednesday morning, more than one million people still had no power.
“When I heard blackouts and no electricity at all in Puerto Rico, that’s when you know things are bad,” Barea said. “It’s sad that people got to go through it.
“But Puerto Rico people are going to fight, they’re going to stay together and they’re going to keep moving.”
When Hurricane Maria slammed the island of Puerto Rico, Barea stepped up and raised funds and used proprietor Mark Cuban’s airplane to take supplies to his homeland. He said he’ll do something to help this time too, but will take a wait and see approach as of now.
“We’ll see who needs the most help and then we’ll go from there and see what my foundation can do to help,” Barea said. “Half of Puerto Rico got their electricity back on and half are still without it, so hopefully that comes back pretty soon.”
Coach Rick Carlisle likes the awareness that his players have when disasters strikes.
“When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico I thought J. J. Barea was a great example of a guy that really cared about his home land and put his money where his mouth was and put his own money on the table,” Carlisle said. “Mark Cuban was a big donator and I think donated his plane to bring relief items. It’s great to see.
“You hate to see disasters, but these heart-warming stories of players digging in for their homeland is one of the things that makes the NBA a really compelling league to observe.”
Barea is hopeful that everything stabilizes in Puerto Rico, but takes solace in knowing that the folks on his island are resilient.
“We’re a little unlucky,” Barea said. “A lot of people got hurt, houses dropped, schools dropped.
“That’s something they’re working on it right now in Puerto Rico and we’ll see where we go from there. Hopefully it won’t happen again.”
PORZINGIS IMPROVING: Power forward Kristaps Porzingis missed his fifth straight game Wednesday while dealing with soreness in his right knee. Carlisle acknowledged that there is no timetable for when Porzingis will return and play again.
“He’s doing better every day,” Carlisle said. “But until he’s back there’s no point in talking about who we’re missing and him not being out there.
“A lot of teams are going through health issues right now. But his activity is increasing every day, so we’ll hope for the best.”
BOARDS FROM AFAR: Before Wednesday’s game against Denver, coach Rick Carlisle was asked how many rebounds he would like to get from his point guard, shooting guard and small forward positions.
“Somewhere in the mid-20s, which is good,” Carlisle said. “But that’s three positions on the floor.
“With all the threes that are shot, there’s ample opportunity. Luka (Doncic) is a great rebounder, so there’s eight or 10 right off the bat. We just got to come up with 15 more.”