By Art Garcia, NBA.com
Posted Dec 23 2008 1:43PM
DALLAS -- San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich paid Jose Juan Barea the ultimate compliment without mouthing a word. At least not words for public consumption.
Barea was in the process of schooling the Spurs, especially All-Star point guard Tony Parker, in the fourth quarter of a clash between Dallas and San Antonio earlier this month. Popovich had seen enough.
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He unleashed ultimate defensive pain in the neck Bruce Bowen on the Dallas dynamo.
"That was weird," said Barea, still somewhat stunned by the move. "We have Dirk and Jet [Jason Terry] and Kidd on the floor, and he's guarding me. And he's a hack."
Barea is quickly getting used to such shows of respect. Opposing coaches still gameplan for Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. But now, they can't afford to forget about J.J Barea.
The shot-creating ability of the Mavs' Jose Juan Barea kept Dallas afloat earlier this season.
Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images
Blazers coach Nate McMillan will have Barea on the radar for his team's Christmas Day showdown with the Mavericks in Portland. Even if it's sometime hard to find Barea on the radar.
Listed at 6-feet, Barea is closer to 5-foot-10. He spends quite of bit of time, especially late in the game, at shooting guard alongside Kidd, though Barea is a natural point guard.
"He gives them energy and heart and that's how you're supposed to play the game," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, who carved a role during his playing career as a vertically challenged point guard. "There's a niche for hard work. That's a talent. People don't give that credit as being a talent. They just see a guy that can't run and jump to the top of the square. Playing hard is a talent. He has that."
Barea's ability to create shots when the offense breaks down helped the Mavericks stay afloat earlier this season in the face of injuries and inconsistency in the backcourt. Barea overcomes his physical stature by using his quickness and improvisational skills to get up shots in the heart of the defense. He's been doing that his whole life.
The native of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, Barea was an all-around athlete, just as his parents and brothers were. He played in Miami as a high school senior in hopes of landing a college scholarship and earned one to Northeastern.
Along the way, he learned to play bigger than he is. Barea's knack for getting to the rim is a learned art. "My coaches used to tell me to always use the rim on a reverse because it's hard to block," he said. "With the floater, show it, put it back down and then put it back up. From high school to college to the NBA, you have to keep adjusting, especially here in the NBA with guys coming out of nowhere."
Some would argue that Barea, in his third season, came out of nowhere. Though he's a fan favorite in Dallas, he played only sporadically for former coach Avery Johnson, primarily as the Mavericks' third point guard. He was thrust into the rotation by new Dallas coach Rick Carlisle in hopes of getting a spark, and because the coach was literally out of options. Howard, Jerry Stackhouse and Antoine Wright were injured, and Gerald Green had fallen out of favor.
Barea responded with a four-game stretch earlier this month in which he averaged 19 points a game. Included in that run was a game-winning 3-pointer against the Clippers. Kidd wasn't surprised.
"I've seen it in practice and I think, as his confidence has grown, he's grown," the All-Star point guard said. "Not in height, but in confidence. And in this league when you have confidence, it doesn't matter how tall you are."
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