- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS -- J.J. Barea appreciates the Mavericks scheduling the ring ceremony for his trip to the American Airlines Center. He’s excited to finally get his championship jewelry and visit with old friends.
But it will be a bittersweet experience for the former Mavs fan favorite, who desperately wanted to continue his career in Dallas.
Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who was determined to create as much salary cap space as possible, forced Barea to make a no-brainer business decision. Barea, who was offered only a one-year deal from the Mavs, signed with the Timberwolves for $19 million over four years.
“Things happen,” Barea said. “I’m a little disappointed it went that way. But to get to come here and get the ring with everybody and the fans, it will be nice.”
Barea won’t play against the Mavericks. He’ll miss his fourth consecutive game due to nagging ankle and hamstring injuries, which makes it more of a social visit for him.
“I’m excited to be here, excited to finally get that ring,” Barea said. “I’m just going to enjoy tonight. I wish I was playing, but now I get to talk more and say hi to everybody.”
After the Timberwolves finished their shootaround, Barea headed for the home locker room to say hello to former teammates and coaches, although some of the Mavs weren’t too interested in socializing.
“I just seen him as we walked by, so that was good enough for me,” Jason Terry said. “Now that he’s on the other team, that was good enough for me. A little 20, 30 seconds, how you doing, how’s the family doing and we’re ready to kick their butt tonight.”
UPDATE: The championship ring isn't the only gift Barea is getting from the Mavs in his return.
A high chair and baby rattle was waiting for Barea in the visitors' locker room when the Timberwolves arrived at the arena Wednesday evening. Barea can make good use of the items, as his former Miss Universe girlfriend is expecting, but it's also an old inside joke.
Clipper Darrell, the somewhat famous, extremely vocal fan of L.A's red-and-blue franchise, often referred to Barea as a baby while heckling the Mavs. It started a couple of seasons ago when Barea was shooting free throws during a lopsided Mavs win. Clipper Darrell shouted in the quiet, half-empty Staples Center, "Get that baby off the court!" The Mavs on the bench, led by Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, laughed so hard that they almost rolled on the floor.
"Old jokes," Barea said.