After battling nagging calf injury all season, Mavs’ J.J. Barea looks forward to healthy summer

DALLAS — Hampered by a nagging left calf injury that sidelined him for much of the 2016-17 season, veteran point guard J.J. Barea still found a way to make an impact for the Dallas Mavericks on and off the court.

This season, Barea played in just 35 games while battling through the lingering calf injury, averaging 10.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists during 22.0 minutes per outing. He also connected on 41.4 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from behind the three-point arc, emerging once again as one of the Mavs’ best playmakers off the bench. But after playing the fewest amount of games since making 33 appearances his rookie season, the 11-year veteran reflected on his up-and-down ’16-17 campaign.

“You know, personally, it was tough. I’ve never went through what I went through this year, but I learned a lot,” Barea said after the conclusion of the season. “I learned a lot about my injury and my calf, but I was able to finish healthy. I’m going to be able to have a good summer, and I’m going to really work more on my body than basketball. Basketball, I think, I’m in a good place and in a good rhythm. Knowing the game, I’ve just got to really work on my body, and I have to be able to have a good year next year.

“I learned things I’ve got to do for it not to happen again. When it does, I’ve got to be a little more patient. But hopefully I’m going to work on it, so we’ll go from there.”

The 32-year-old Barea returned to the lineup and tried to help the Mavericks finish the season strong with nine points and three assists in 14 minutes during a 105-96 home win over Brooklyn on March 9 after missing the previous 20 games. He also struggled through a stint when a previous injury to the same calf forced the undersized floor general to miss 24 of 26 games from Nov. 18 to Jan. 5. But despite seeing the Mavs miss out on the playoffs following a 33-49 season, Barea says it was rewarding to battle with his teammates to close the grueling 82-game schedule.

Barea averaged 16.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists while competing in nine of the Mavericks’ first 10 games, picking up where he left off at after a stellar year during the ’15-16 season. He then found himself out of the lineup after straining the calf during a 90-83 defeat in Boston on Nov. 16. Barea returned to the lineup to play in 17 of the final 19 games, highlighted by a 20-point, seven-assist outing during a 111-104 win in Brooklyn on March 19. And after averaging 12.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists during five games in April, Barea was excited to head into the offseason on a high note.

“It was huge. 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. I could go out there and help the team out as much as I can. We tried there at the end and wasn’t able to (make the playoffs), but just to be out there and finishing the year was good for me,” Barea said of his late surge to end the season.

Despite being in and out of the lineup due to the calf injury this season, Barea still found a way to make an impact by serving as a mentor for the team’s young guards in the locker room.

Barea took undrafted rookie Yogi Ferrell and 26-year-old combo guard Seth Curry under his wings to help the young floor generals navigate through their first season with the Mavericks. He also gave the duo plenty of added motivation throughout the season, challenging both to produce at a high level in his absence. Barea now sees his mentorship being beneficial this summer. With that said, Barea looks forward to joining forces with Ferrell and Curry next season as the Mavericks try to return to prominence with another playoff push.

“It’s big. With Yogi and Seth, I think we’ve got a good young group. They’re ready to learn, and they’re going to work hard. It’s going to be a team thing. And then the point guards, we’re going to have three to four, and we’ve got to do it together,” Barea explained.

He added: “Now, for me, I always try to produce on the court. But also off the court, I try to help [Curry and Ferrell] out and keep them positive. With everything I went through early, I show them things to do and stuff like that, and I just help them as much as I can.”

Mavs find silver lining in injury-riddled ’15-16 season

DALLAS — Falling to the No. 3-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in five games of a first-round playoff series while trying to play through injuries that depleted the roster all season long, the Dallas Mavericks still held their heads up high after putting up a valiant fight.

Suffering a 118-104 series-clinching loss Monday night in Game 5, the Mavericks (1-4) had their 2015-16 season come to an abrupt end after making the playoffs for a 15th time in the last 16 years. The Mavs also overcame injuries to several of their top contributors, playing with only 10 available players in the final outing of the series. And after falling to the Thunder’s star-studded lineup, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle praised his players for their effort and competitiveness during the series.

“We’re disappointed at the result, obviously, but I thought the effort from our team, from start to finish in this series, was second to none,” Carlisle confessed after Monday’s loss. “I couldn’t be prouder of the way our guys competed right up to the very last seconds of the final game. We were up against a great team with great coaching. And metaphorically, we emptied our chamber in five games. I don’t know what we would have thrown at them in Game 6. They just were simply better. We couldn’t solve the rebounding. Their two superstars were great in the series. I thought Dirk Nowitzki was just a fantastic player in this series for us. We had other guys step up, and we had a lot of guys playing hurt.

“That’s the kind of spirit we’ve got on this club. Mavs Nation is going to be extremely proud of this team. You know, getting (into the playoffs) would have seemed like a long shot with nine games to go, but they found a way. And I love the way we competed. I wish we would have had our full contingent of guys.”

Losing versatile forward Chandler Parsons after a season-ending arthroscopic surgery to address an injury to his right medial meniscus on March 25, the Mavs admit that their chances of making the playoffs looked bleak. They also slipped three games below .500 following a 133-111 loss at Sacramento two days later, winning seven of their final nine outings to ascend to the sixth seed in the Western Conference standings.

Unable to give the Mavericks a boost for the second consecutive postseason, Parsons admittedly wonders what could have been had the team remained healthy. The 6-foot-10, 230-pounder finished the ’15-16 campaign averaging 13.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 29.5 minutes, making 61 appearances (51 starts) after battling back from a hybrid microfracture surgery on his right knee last offseason. He then seemed to have hit a stride during his final 30 games of the season, averaging 18.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists while connecting on 52 percent from the floor and 47.5 percent from three-point range during that span. And after seeing the Mavericks put up a fight against the likes of former MVP Kevin Durant and perennial All-Star guard Russell Westbrook, Parsons expressed his frustration with not being available to help his team when it needed him most.

“It’s frustrating,” Parsons said. “Obviously, I was in a really good groove there and a good rhythm, and I’ve said many times that the playoffs is the most fun time of the year. I really think this series would be different if I was healthy and I was playing, or our team was at full strength.”

But the injuries didn’t stop with Parsons.

The Mavs also saw three-time All-Star point guard Deron Williams slide in and out of the lineup with a left abdominal strain and sports hernia, missing eight games from March 25 to April 8 before being limited in the playoffs. The injury bug continued to bite the Mavericks from there as 10-year veteran J.J. Barea suffered a right groin strain that slowed the cat-quick guard near the close of the regular season and into the playoffs. Meanwhile, backup big man David Lee missed three of the five games in the first-round series after sustaining a right plantar fascia injury in the regular-season finale. Still, the Mavericks pushed the Thunder to the best of their abilities before eventually succumbing to the piling injuries.

“I think we can be proud of the guys. We fought,” Nowitzki said after averaging 20.4 points per game on 49.4 percent shooting in the series. “I think ultimately we had too many injuries, and it caught up with us. You know, it really started already at the end of the regular season. Losing Parsons, losing D-Will, losing D-Lee, and Salah (Mejri) couldn’t even go (Monday). J.J. wasn’t moving well all series, so it was too many injuries, but we battled hard. We battled unbelievably hard to even get to the sixth seed, winning six in a row when everybody thought we were dead, so I’m proud of the guys. We gave it all we had.”