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Last stand in open country: J.J. Barea rides again in Orlando

Once considered a veteran luxury, injuries have forced the Mavericks to lean on Barea as the team makes a playoff run.

Dallas Mavericks v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

J.J. Barea heads to Orlando having played 26 games this season, averaging 7.5 points and 3.8 assists on 41 percent shooting (though 38 percent from distance) in 15 minutes a game. The 14 year veteran entered the season after suffering a career-threatening Achilles injury in January of 2019.

At one point in the season, the Dallas Mavericks Instagram account shared this quote from Jalen Brunson:

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What he said #MFFL

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J.J. Barea is all that’s left of a group of players from nearly a decade prior who won the franchise’s first championship. He’s the link to the past as the team builds towards what we all hope is an outstanding future.

Where were they before the break?

In the pre-season, I was one of a small chorus of fans who really wanted Barea to move on from his playing days, perhaps becoming someone like Darryl Armstrong. Few older players ever return and play well from an Achilles tear, let alone alone a 5’10, 34 year old un-drafted guard.

Yet the Mavericks had a clear plan for Barea. He, along with Courtney Lee, were to be the team’s veterans, the stalwarts who’d seen much and could offer council to a host of rising talent. In the early part of the 2019-20 season, Barea rarely saw the floor. Only as the injuries mounted, following Luka Doncic’s ankle sprain in mid-December, did Barea appear on the floor with more regularity.

In the first 20 games for Dallas, he played just four times. In the final 20 games, he saw the floor in 12 games. Simply put, Dallas grew to need Barea on the floor as much as they did in the locker room.

Key stat to know

Despite coming back from injury, Barea managed to play his typically effective brand of offensive basketball. Prior to the hiatus, he was shooting a near career high in three point percentage after a sub-30 percent season in 2018-19. He managed this despite a cold spell in March where he went 1 of 12 from distance. Before that he was a scorching 28 of 64 from beyond the arc. In trivia, he’s missed only one free throw all season.

Outlook for Orlando

Heading to Orlando, Barea’s role is unclear. The signing of Trey Burke indicates Dallas understands their guard depth is lacking, so it’s reasonable to assume the Mavericks coaching staff plans to only use Barea in specific circumstances. Barea’s likely to play, but hopefully not much. He’s a target on defense despite a career penchant for irritating offensive players and drawing charges.

This may well be Barea’s last hurrah as a player, though he’s said little either way. In these final eight games and the playoffs to come, it’s important to relish these Barea moments. He’s been many things to Maverick fans for such a long time and we will miss him when he’s gone.