Barea's Leadership Making Quick Impact

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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JJ Barea can't help but feel a little different in a Timberwolves uniform. Not only is he starting over with a new franchise and new teammates, but the fifth-year veteran is feeling a bit more mature among his new colleagues.

He did, after all, become an elder teammate over night.

"I feel a little bit old here," Barea joked. "I'm 27, but I feel like one of the oldest on the team."

Still, Barea is using the change to his advantage. Coming from the defending champion Dallas Mavericks—a squad filled with veteran leadership in Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry—the Wolves' new point guard is finding ways to take the lessons he learned in Texas to help this young roster mature.

Along with Barea in the back court are four guards with two or fewer years of NBA experience. Minnesota's current roster has 10 players who have played three years or fewer in the league.

Barea is hoping to help this youthful squad mature into the type of unit he helped win the title last June. Assistant coach Terry Porter said he's already seeing the difference.

"First and foremost, he's a winner," Porter said. "He comes here with a championship pedigree. He knows what you've got to put in to be successful. They won it last year, but they've always been a very good, successful team. When you have young guys, that's so critical. They've got to learn how to be professionals, learn how to be a championship-caliber basketball team."

Not only is Barea able to bring that work ethic, but he's able to perform on the court.

In Minnesota's first preseason game against Milwaukee—he sat out Wednesday's final exhibition with a thigh bruise—Barea played 26 minutes and racked up 14 points and six assists in the 117-96 victory. He showed an ability to work the offense, find open passing lanes and take the basket to the hoop when the opportunity arose.

He said he's trying to show his teammates how to approach the game each day.

"Just lead by example," Barea said. "A little bit of talking, but mostly come every day and work hard, compete every game. Come early, leave late. Work on your game, stay healthy, do weights. Do whatever it takes."

Teammates are noticing that mentality. Forward Kevin Love said he trusts Barea on the court to make the right play. Love said he brings a calming presence to the team, but he's ready to go come game time.

"When it's time to turn it on and bring it, he brings it," Love said. "We've kind of got the best of both worlds."

Rookie guard Malcolm Lee said he is watching and learning. He said he finds things in Barea's game—how he defends, how uses a pick and roll—and tries to emulate his approach.

That type of impact off among his new teammates is what Porter sees daily.

"His ability to step out on the floor and still contribute is huge," Porter said.

Heading into the team's regular season opener on Monday at home against Oklahoma City, the Wolves will continue to follow their new veteran back court leader's example.

"As long as we play with energy and we move the ball, I think we'll be fine," Barea said. "As the season goes on, the more games we get we're gonna feel more comfortable and we'll see what happens."

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