After productive ’15-16 season, J.J. Barea shifts focus to his health this summer

DALLAS — Despite seeing his fair share of personal success during the 2015-16 schedule, Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea enters the summer with a few concerns about his health that he hopes to alleviate prior to the start of next season.

Appearing in 74 games and making 16 starts this season, the 31-year-old Barea averaged 10.9 points, 2.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists an outing after signing a reported four-year deal worth $16 million last summer. He also shot a career-best 44.6 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from three-point range, giving the Mavericks a boost once again in the backcourt. But after suffering a strained right groin late in the season, Barea wasn’t able to give the Mavs a lift in the playoffs as the team eventually fell in five games to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. And with hopes of building on this season’s success, Barea heads into the offseason focused on returning to 100 percent.

“You know, it was an up-and-down season and a tough season, but team-wise I think we fought till the end,” Barea explained during his exit interview with the media last month. “We fought all year. We had our good moments and our bad moments, but we stayed together, though. The important part is we stayed together as a team at all times. And I think we left it all out there, so I think it was a great season.”

Welcoming his daughter, Paulina, into the world on March 31, Barea was named the Western Conference Player of the Week for games played from March 28 through April 3. The undersized floor general also had no problem putting the team on his back late in the season while earning the honor for the first time in his career, becoming the first Maverick to garner the award since Monta Ellis on April 13, 2014.

Barea led the Mavericks to a 4-0 record during that stretch with victories against Denver, New York, Detroit and Minnesota. He also averaged 23.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 6.8 assists during that span while shooting 52.1 percent from the field and 48 percent from three-point range. But after leading the team in scoring and assists in each of those outings, Barea was sidelined after just eight minutes of action led to him suffering the groin injury against Memphis during a 103-93 win on April 8.

Sitting out two nights later due to the injury as the Mavs fell to a 98-91 road loss against the Los Angeles Clippers, Barea returned to action but clearly wasn’t completely healthy while scoring just five points on 2-of-11 shooting as Dallas clinched a playoff berth with a 101-92 win in Utah on April 11. And after averaging just 6.3 points, 1.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists in three games against the Thunder during the first-round series, Barea expressed his frustration with the untimely injury.

“It was frustrating,” Barea admitted. “You know, I was playing the best basketball ever and I was feeling great till that move in the Memphis game, so I was looking forward to the playoffs. And then this happened and I couldn’t get back to normal, so it’s tough. But things happen and it could be worse, so I’ve just got to take care of everything and be ready for next season.”

Vowing to regain his health in time for the ’16-17 season, Barea is now expected to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery this summer. In addition to recovering from the groin injury, the 10-year veteran also expects to have a procedure done on his right medial meniscus. That could hamper Barea’s ability to represent his home country this summer while trying to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Barea averaged 20.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists in eight games of the FIBA Americas tournament last summer in Mexico City, settling for a fifth-place finish. But with his health in question, the Puerto Rican national team may be forced to qualify for the Olympics without their unquestioned leader. With that said, Barea vows to return to his elite play next season, hoping to use this summer to recover from his minor aches and pains.

“I’ve got to let the groin heal and just get some rest. I’ve got to get a small scope on my right knee, and then we’ll go from there,” Barea explained.

He added: “I’ve got to give this some rest. And when this is all good, I’ll see how I feel and make a decision. … You know, it’s super important for me to play for Puerto Rico, and I think it also helps me to stay ready for the next season, so we’ll see how it goes.”

After two injury-shortened seasons, Chandler Parsons mulls decision to enter free agency

DALLAS — Entering the 2015-16 campaign with concerns about his right knee after undergoing a hybrid microfracture surgery last offseason, Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons again will admittedly face another uphill climb this summer following a second straight injury-shortened season.

Last season, the 6-foot-10 Parsons hoped to make the most of his first campaign with the Mavericks after signing a reported three-year deal worth $46 million to join the team following three previous seasons with the rival Houston Rockets. However, after being plagued by nagging injuries throughout the grueling 82-game schedule, Parsons found his ’14-15 season cut short after Game 1 of the Mavs’ first-round playoff series against Houston while requiring surgery to repair cartilage damage in his right knee.

Playing in only 66 games last season while averaging 15.7 points, 4.9 rebound and 2.4 assists, the versatile forward was still rehabbing from the injury entering the ’15-16 schedule. He then made his season debut with two points, three rebounds and three assists in 12 minutes of action during a 103-93 road win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 1. Parsons battled his way back to 100 percent from there, overcoming minute restrictions to start the season in the process. But after playing some of his basketball later in the year, Parsons was again forced to miss the team’s first-round playoff series against Oklahoma City following arthroscopic surgery on March 25 to address an injury to his right medial meniscus.

“It’s devastating,” Parsons admitted after watching in street clothes as the Mavs eventually fell to a first-round exit in five games to the Thunder. “You know, last year was something extremely difficult that I had to go through that I’ve never really went through, and now this year I was finally starting to feel like myself again, playing great and winning some games. And then, you know, it’s something different but the same type of injury. It’s just frustrating to not be able to play with these guys and to see us struggle. To see us lose like this in the first round, you can’t help but think, ‘What could I do if I were playing? How would I help?’ You just feel bad for the guys, ’cause it’s bad timing for us to go through all the injuries that we went through this year. But at the same time, you’ve got to be extremely happy for the way they competed and the way they fought. They didn’t give up at all, they didn’t back down from anybody, and they made it an interesting series, for sure. But the most difficult part is, for the second year in a row, to not being able to play for my team when it counts.”

The 27-year-old Parsons played in 61 games for the Mavs this season, making 51 starts and averaging 13.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He also seemed to be playing the best basketball of the his young career during the last 30 games he saw action in before the surgery, averaging 18.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 34.3 minutes while connecting on 52 percent from the floor and 47.5 percent from three-point range during that span.

He now could test the free-agency waters should he choose to opt out of the final year of his contract to hit the open market. But with plans of speaking with Mavs owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, the former Florida standout says he hopes to work out his contract situation quickly in order to recruit more top-level talent to Dallas.

“I mean, obviously, now that the season’s over, my No. 1 concern right now is to get my knee at 100 percent and focus on my health, to make sure I can get through a full season next year and play the best basketball of my career for 82 games next year and into the playoffs. That’s my No. 1 priority, and now that this season’s over is when I’ll start talking to my agent and looking at other options. I’m sure I’ll be talking to Mark and Donnie a lot about my future here in Dallas. The season obviously ended a lot shorter than we would have liked, but now I guess I’ll take some time off and start talking and thinking about free agency,” Parsons explained.

He added: “Obviously, it’s tough to recruit if I don’t know where I’m going. You know, in the back of my head, Dallas is home to me. I loved it here, and I came here to be a great player and to win a lot of games. You know, I’ve yet to do that here, so I feel like I’ve got a lot of unfinished business here I’d love to continue and grow into the player that I saw myself being here. So, the quicker we can get that done, it allows me to start recruiting and doing that whole thing.”

Showing promise during his first two seasons with the Mavericks, Parsons hopes to continue to grow as a player in a Dallas uniform. That’s a hope the Mavs’ front office shares, according to Nelson, as negotiations figure to get underway in the very near future.

Prior to his last two injury-riddled years, Parsons proved to be durable while playing in 76 and 74 games during the previous two seasons, respectively. He now hopes to recapture that health entering next season, vowing to come back stronger and better than he’s ever been. Still, Nelson says the Mavericks will take a cautious approach into negotiations this summer while attempting to lure Parsons back.

“Certainly, he’s a young player in his prime with upside, but those are conversations that I think we’ll have at the right time,” Nelson said when asked about Parsons’ future in Dallas. “He’s been a big part of the fabric that we’ve built here. But again, it’s a question of how many dollars and injury status and things like that. So, I think we just need to sit down, get past an emotional moment and have those conversations in due process.

“It’s part of the discussions. You know, there are issues and there is a situation there. It’s not that it’s unmanageable, but it’s just that it affects things. … Again, we’ll have those conversations at the right time, but we’d certainly like to have Parsons continue his stint with the Mavericks. He’s a young player with upside, is getting better and works great in our system, so we’ll look forward to those conversations at the right time.”