J.J. Barea wants to remain a Mav
"If you want to go by percentages, I think 75 percent I'll be back in Dallas and 25 percent something else happens," Barea said, now back home in Puerto Rico after a bid to qualify for the 2012 Olympics fell painfully short with a semifinals loss to host country Argentina at the FIBA Americas Tournament. "... My first option is going to be Dallas."
That comes as little surprise. Immediately after Barea helped the Mavericks capture the title with a fearless postseason run that surely worked to increase his value on the free agent market, Barea said his loyalty belongs to Dallas, the team that signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Northeastern five years ago.
In a typical year, Barea likely would have locked up his future two months ago, since free agency normally begins on July 1. However, this year that was the date that NBA's collective bargaining agreement expired, the owners locked out the players and league business ceased.
"It's definitely frustrating, but things happen," Barea said. "If the lockout wasn't here I'd have a contract already and I'd know where I was going. But, things happen and you just have to stay positive with it and I'm staying ready."
Barea, 27, completed the most successful season of his career, averaging career highs in scoring (9.5), assists (3.9), rebounds (2.0) and minutes (20.6). He played a pivotal role in the championship run as the backup point guard, flummoxing the Los Angeles Lakers defense in the conference semifinals, and keying Dallas' penetration as the starting shooting guard in the final three games of the NBA Finals -- all Mavs victories -- against the Miami Heat.
Barea, who earned $1.8 million last season, said he would have to be bowled over by a dollar figure to think about leaving Dallas. He said potential promises of a starting job elsewhere won't be enough to lure him away.
"I'd probably have to be blown away by a deal to go somewhere else," Barea said. "The team we have in Dallas, if we keep it together, I don't mind coming off the bench and starting sometimes and doing what we have to do to win. The team we had last year was incredible. If I go somewhere else, if I'm going to start, that's not really going to be part of the decision-making."
As for Barea's immediate future, he said he wants to gauge the progress of labor negotiations until at least November before deciding if he will sign a contract to play in Spain until the NBA resumes.
Barea said he has not had direct talks regarding a possible contract with any team, but that he will have options in Spain if he chooses to play.
"I'm going to be patient and I hope that the NBA gets back on track," Barea said. "I need a little bit of rest. I feel a little bit mentally and physically tired from the tournament. I will have the option (of playing in Spain), but I don't know if that's something I want to do yet."
It has been a whirlwind summer for Barea. Soon after winning the NBA title, Barea began training with the Puerto Rican national team. At the Americas tournament, where the top two teams qualified for next summer's Olympic Games in London, Puerto Rico reached the semifinals and needed one more win to qualify.
Barea will have a last chance to make his first Olympics in a tournament of 12 hopeful countries from around the globe next July, just two weeks before the start of the Olympics.
"It's going to be tough again," he said.
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.
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