In addition to always being the smallest player on the floor during this postseason, J.J. Barea is also the most annoying. I say this not as an insult, but with appreciation and respect. As a basketball fan, can you think of a more frustrating player to watch kill your team than Barea? He’s tiny and tough, fearless and fast and can get to the hoop with such ease you find yourself uttering very bad words in a voice you usually wouldn’t dare use in public.
Baskets by Barea will break your team’s back and cripple their spirit. They also give his Mavs a boost that cannot always be accurately measured by personal stats, points scored or +/-. Some how, some way, Barea gets to the hoop, weaves circles around his defenders and leaves opposing coaches with hands thrown up in frustration and disgust.
It’s what he does. Against the Lakers in Game 2, Barea came off of the bench to play 17 minutes where he scored 12 points on 4-for-9 shooting to go along with four assists. He also was given the postgame interview. J.J. Barea as the postgame interview in a playoff game. J.J. Barea hanging with Cheryl Miler. Yes.
And it makes me happy. I know what you’re thinking — of course it makes me happy. Which player succeeding doesn’t make me happy? If we’re being honest, there are a few who grate on my nerves after seeing them be jerks when it was entirely unnecessary, but that’s neither here nor there. About Barea, I kind of almost owe him.
In university, I worked as the manager of the basketball team. To prove I knew a little bit about basketball — and to show how eager I was to learn more — I submitted a scouting report from the under-21 Tournament of the Americas which took place in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2004. Yes, I was such a happy girl, watching Chris Paul and Peter John Ramos — remember him? — and Charlie Villanueva. The guy who shone brighter than everyone, though, was Jose Juan Barea.
With two triple-doubles, Barea led the Puerto Rico team to a gold medal game against the United States where he finished with 27 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals in 35 minutes. In comparison, Chris Paul finished with eight points, eight assists, three rebound and two steals in 38 minutes. Kinda fun.
It probably didn’t help that after cheering my heart out for Barea as he notched his first triple-double, I discovered his family was sitting in the row behind me with their country’s flags. After shared smiles and cheers, I was sold. I loved that guy. And, he was going to make it. He had to.
I wrote my scouting report on J.J. Barea’s game (sadly, I can’t find the report on the gaggle of flash drives I checked), and finished it by saying I thought he would indeed make it to the league. My coach was impressed with my report — at the very least he knew I loved the game enough to wash 12 other people’s laundry every day for four years — and I got the gig.
Seven years since that tournament and four years since Barea cracked the Mavs roster, it still makes me happy to see him doing well. Averaging 9.5 points and 3.9 assists in 20 minutes per game, he’s doing alright. Earlier this season during a morning shootaround in Toronto, I asked Barea about Halifax and we shared wistful smiles, his thinking about his 24.8 points, 7.2 assists and 6.8 rebounds per game he averaged over that tourney, me thinking about my home.
In short: Barea’s been a baller — a hella wicked baller, in fact. And with every layup he makes in this postseason, I feel a little bit of pride for believing he’d make it here.
Well, it’s either pride, or pleasure in being right. Regardless, it’s fun.