DALLAS - Long-time Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea - as former coach Rick Carlisle has often noted the last connection to the franchise's 2011 NBA championship - is ready to move from a playing career overseas to a position on the Mavs' coaching staff that Carlisle just left behind.
"For sure,'' Barea said on Friday when DallasBasketball.com asked him about the idea of coming back to Dallas to be a part of the next coaching staff here. "That's what I want.''
JJB globe-trotted his way around basketball outside the NBA after his release at the start of this past season. Dallas signed JJB one last time last fall, creating a way to pay him a $2.6 million guaranteed contract despite not expecting him to make the roster. They wanted to reward him for his contributions to the team.
“He was a huge part of that championship,” then-GM Donnie Nelson said when the Mavs released Barea at the end of camp. “I think it was really more of an appreciation of J.J. and the amazing things he’s done throughout his career is why we brought him back as the 16th player on the roster and gave him a thank you of sorts.”
Barea has long been the subject of discussion in regard to joining the Mavs as a staffer or coach, in part because he was valuable in helping Luka Doncic make the off-the-court transition to America and the NBA. But the 36-year-old said on that retirement day, “I want to make sure everybody knows I want to play. Anything could happen this year, with the COVID, injuries. I might be back here in Dallas playing. I’ve seen it all in the NBA. I’ve seen some crazy stuff.”
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The 14-year veteran did not see that opportunity unfold. But here comes another opportunity.
JJB, who began his pro career in his home of Puerto Rico, has often represented Puerto Rico in international competitions. He was and is also close with Doncic, and with Kristaps Porzingis, and of course with Mavs owner Mark Cuban and others who remain in this organization even after this week's departure of Nelson and Carlisle. (We've suggested that along with new "special advisor'' Dirk Nowitzki, Dirk buddy Barea - who knows this locker-room dynamic as well as anyone - is probably also being asked questions by Cuban.)
We've also suggested (and been told of) an "orderly'' manner to the coming hirings following the departures of Nelson and Carlisle. Cuban appointing Barea as an assistant coach before he has a GM and head coach would not be "orderly.''
But at least for now, we know what Barea wants. He wants to help. He wants in.