J.J. Barea's job a big one with T'Wolves

December, 15, 2011
12/15/11
12:17
AM CT
Ricky Rubio meet J.J. Barea, and take good notes.

Learn about heart, sweat and guts. Learn how to deal with adversity in the no-mercy NBA. Learn how to overcome. Learn how to be a winner.

Why else do you think the Minnesota Timberwolves outbid the New York Knicks and everybody else and signed the 5-foot-10 world champion to a four-year, $19 million contract on Wednesday?

From a young spark plug on the veteran-laden Dallas Mavericks, Barea, 27, is now an elder statesman of sorts and a mentor in every way to the Timberwolves' Spanish-speaking and once-reluctant No. 5 pick.

"I think that was one of things. I also think what helps me is I came from a great team, great system in Dallas, and I was a big part of the championship team," Barea said after a long day of meeting his new teammates and coaches and beginning the process of settling into his new home of Minneapolis. "I’m going to help him as much as I can. He’s a good kid and I know, I went through it, how hard it is the first couple of years, the ups and downs of the NBA. So, I’m going try to keep him positive and help him out as much as I can."

Hard to believe that Barea, a native of Puerto Rico who had a brilliant, if not a mostly anonymous career at Northeastern, is a five-year NBA veteran, his last three seasons spent as a 20-minute-a-night backup to Jason Kidd, while at times also playing alongside the future Hall of Famer, which could become a similar situation with the slick playmaker from Spain.

"He’s a great kid, talented, but he’s a rookie," Barea said. "He’s young. It’s going to be his first year in the NBA; it’s never easy so I’m going to help him as much as I can with whatever I know."

At the same time as Barea begins a brave new world in the snowy midwest, it remains difficult for him to let go of his ties to Dallas and what might have been if owner Mark Cuban hadn't of slammed on the brakes on the old way of doing business and made a B-line toward salary cap space in this new collective bargaining agreement era.

Cuban bid farewell to free agents Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler and Peja Stojakovic. Barea, who desperately wanted to return and chase back-to-back titles, said discussions with Cuban never reached a dollar figure because the owner wasn't budging from a one-year deal that Barea would never accept.

"It’s never going to be personal against Mark or [president of basketball operations Donnie [Nelson] or whoever," Barea said. "But, it’s still disappointing after you win a title and that’s all you fight for and then to break up a team like that it’s always going to be disappointing. But, that’s the direction they wanted to go and that’s what they’re doing."

Barea will participate in his first full practice today with the Timberwolves, a team so often a doormat, but this season is at least intriguing. Rick Adelman takes over as head coach. Rubio, 21, is the point guard. Derrick Williams is the 20-year-old rookie. Kevin Love, 23, is the double-double machine. There's erratic and talented and still immature 22-year-old Michael Beasley, 22-year-old Anthony Randolph, 24-year-old Wesley Johnson, 26-year-old Anthony Tolliver and just 26-year-old Darko Milicic.

In other words, the T'pups are the anti-Mavs.

"It’s weird. It’s weird, but it’s something new for me and another experience I’m going to have," Barea said. "It was great five years in Dallas. Everything about my first five years in Dallas was awesome. This is a nice, little roster. It’s young, really young, but it’s going to be fun."

Especially if Barea can help the hopeful face of the franchise find his way in his own brave new world.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsD. Nowitzki 6.2
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9