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Dirk Nowitzki may have won the most recent NBA player of the week, and will get much of the credit for leading the Dallas Mavericks to a 3-0 week after putting up 30.7 points and 10 rebounds, but it hasn’t gone without notice that Jose Juan Barea that has provided the much-needed spark.

With Josh Howard’s bum ankle taking him out of the lineup, Rick Carlisle tried a multitude of starting combinations, experimenting with Gerald Green, Antonie Wright, and James Singleton in the starting five.

Those combinations didn’t produce the results he was looking for, so Carlisle finally settled on pairing the sub-six-foot Barea and Jason Kidd in the backcourt.

Bastardized Lineup pays dividends
The move to pair up point guards was a definite gamble, but it was the only roster change that showed positive results on the court. And it’s injected new life and raised the energy of a stagnant Dallas team that started the season 2-7, including a brutal five-game losing streak.

Even towards the end of the game of the last three, the Mavs have had Jason Terry in the mix, making for a three-guard lineup - a mix that Carlisle lovingly calls the “bastardized lineup”

Barea has played over 20 minutes in just six games this season, and it’s no coincidence that it happens to be the last six games the Mavs have played. He’s also started the last three.

The 5-11 guard from Puerto Rico has averaged 15.2 points, 5.5 assists (with only 1.2 turnovers), shot 50% from the field, 41.7% from three, and 80% from the line during the six-game stretch.

“I love Barea,” Rick Carlisle said on local Dallas radio station. “He’s a little guy that battles. He just battles his butt off, cares about the team, cares about winning, all that stuff.”

Dallas has won four of those six games, only losing to the Lakers and San Antonio Spurs last night (in double OT).

The fiery Barea hasn’t just been putting up good stats, he’s also been produing when it matters. In the last four games Barea hit a game-winning three against the Clippers (W), scored 9 fourth quarter points against Phoenix (W), put up 16 points in a decisive third quarter against the Hawks (W), and 13-fourth-quarter-points to force overtime against the Spurs (L).
Long Road to now
This is Barea’s third year in the league and it hasn’t been an easy road for J.J.

Even though Barea was the CAA Player of the Year and averaged 21 points, 8.4 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.2 steals, he went undrafted out of Northeastern University, mostly because scouts were concerned of whether a 5-11 guard could replicate that success in the pros.

From there, Barea took to the Portsmouth NBA Draft Camp, where he was named camp MVP and set the camp record by totaling 41 assists over three games (13.6 assists per). He would also play in the NBA summer league; dominating and running a unique floor game that saw constant aggression; basically dribbling the ball around until he was able to create a shot for himself or his teammates - and was hugely successful - Barea was picked up by the Dallas Mavericks in 2006.

With that type of energy and mindset, it’s no wonder Nowitzki calls Barea the ‘Puerto Rico A.I.”

“He’s fearless. Fearless,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “(Barea) gets in there. He’s small, but for some reason, he’s a great finisher. He always finds the seams and gets to the cup. He’s a great finisher. If there are people in there, he can pass the ball out. I just really like that he’s in attack mode.”

Tony Parker on J.J. Barea: 'He looked a little bit like Steve Nash'
2:59 PM Wed, Dec 10, 2008 | Permalink | Yahoo! Buzz
Tim MacMahon E-mail News tips

barea10.jpgYou could certainly consider Tony Parker an expert on lightning-quick point guards. The Spurs' blur was pretty impressed by J.J. Barea's 21-point, five-assist performance last night.

"It looked like he was franchise out there," Parker said. "He was running every single play. He looked a little bit like Steve Nash, dribbling like 100 times. Sometimes it's tough to guard that because you never know what he's going to do."

Barea hasn't displayed anything close to the court vision that makes Nash so special, but you can see the comparison of their 100-mph styles of play. And, given where Nash was as a 24-year-old, it's really not too ridiculous.

That was Nash's first season in Dallas, during which he got booed mercilessly at Reunion Arena. He averaged 7.9 points and 5.5 assists in 40 games (all starts) that season. Barea is averaging 7.4 ppg and 2.7 apg this season (20.3 ppg and 4.3 apg in three starts).

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