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J.J. Barea: Ball in Mavs' court

12/2/2011



The Dallas Mavericks have made their interest in bringing back spark plug J.J. Barea known, but so have several other big hitters.

The Miami Heat, who open the regular season in Dallas on Christmas Day, the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, and Sacramento Kings have all made contact with Barea's agent, Dan Fegan, a source close to the situation confirmed Friday.

Barea, who is from Puerto Rico, but played his senior year of high school basketball in Miami, has maintained that his priority is returning to the Mavs, the franchise that took a chance on him as an undersized, undrafted free agent out of Northeastern five years ago. Barea has emerged as Dallas' dependable backup behind Jason Kidd, averaging around 20 minutes a game. His points, assists and minutes have all increased over the past three seasons.

During a brief phone conversation Friday with Barea, who is in the Dominican Republic before he returns to Dallas next week, he reiterated that he hopes to again be playing for Dallas and that the ball is in the Mavs' court.

"I always said that's my first option," Barea said. "I did my job last year."

He said he is not necessarily chasing the highest offer or a starting job, saying, "I just want what I deserve."

Teams could begin talking to player-agents on Wednesday, but players can't sign a deal until at least Dec. 9.

Barea earned $1.8 million last season. He had an up-and-down regular season, starting the first two months horribly, but finishing strong, including a breakout postseason in which he gave the Lakers fits and started the last three games of the NBA Finals at shooting guard. But, where the market is for Barea isn't clear.

It might be a stretch for a team with the ability to use the full mid-level exception ($5 million starting salary) to go that high for Barea, but it is possible that a team like Sacramento, with some $28 million in cap space, could certainly drive up the price and give Barea a difficult decision. Interestingly, the Kings drafted 5-foot-8 point guard Isaiah Thomas out of Washington late in the second round.

"I want to know where I'm going to be at," Barea said. "I'd like to be with the same team, in the same city, in the same house. We'll see."