Mavs release fan favorite Barea on ‘tough day’

NBA

The Dallas Mavericks plan to release veteran point guard and fan favorite J.J. Barea, sources told ESPN.

The Mavs plan to sign Courtney Lee to replace Barea on the training camp roster, according to sources.

The Mavs anticipated releasing Barea, 36, when they signed him to a one-year deal worth the veterans minimum of $2.6 million last month. That gave the team 16 players with guaranteed contracts, one more than the regular-season roster limit.

Sources said Dallas owner Mark Cuban wanted to reward Barea, a key role player on the 2010-11 championship team who has played 11 of his 14 seasons with the Mavericks, for his contributions to the franchise over the years.

Barea remains determined to play in the NBA this season before retiring as a player and pursuing a career in coaching, sources said. The move is expected to be made official after Thursday’s practice, granting Barea’s request to be released sooner than later if it was a certainty that he wouldn’t be on the roster after final preseason cuts.

He has performed well during training camp, but the Mavs are committed to giving the reserve point guard minutes to Jalen Brunson and Trey Burke.

The 5-foot-10 Barea was productive in a limited role last season, when he came back from a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered in January 2019 to average 7.7 points and 3.9 assists in 15.5 minutes during his 29 appearances. He was considered a valuable leader despite not being a regular part of the rotation, mentoring superstar Luka Doncic and other young Mavs.

Barea, who made the Mavericks as an undrafted rookie in 2006 (and began going by his initials because then-Dallas coach Avery Johnson often botched his given name, Jose Juan), has career averages of 8.9 points and 3.9 assists per game, spending most of his career as a spark plug off the bench.

Barea’s career is best remembered for his performance against the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals. With Dallas at a 2-1 deficit in the series, Carlisle made a surprise adjustment to start Barea alongside Jason Kidd in the backcourt. Barea averaged 13.3 points and 4.7 points as the Mavs won the next three games to clinch the franchise’s first championship.

Barea ranks fifth in Mavericks history with 637 games played, trailing only Dirk Nowitzki and a trio of players from the 1980s (Brad Davis, Derek Harper and Rolando Blackman) whose numbers hang from the American Airlines Center rafters.

He played for the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2011 to 2014, returning to Dallas after he received a buyout from the final season of his contract.

Cuban has said on several occasions that he envisions Barea having a role with the Mavericks organization after his playing career ends.

Like Barea, Lee, 35, was considered a leader in Dallas’ locker room despite not being in the regular rotation last season. The Mavs value that kind of presence, even though Lee is a longshot to make the roster.

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