Three years ago when Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was deciding which one of his free agents he was going to keep, he decided to have a heart-to-heart talk with guard J.J. Barea.
Cuban was trying to explain to Barea why it wouldn’t be financially feasible for the Mavs to sign him to a long-term contract.
“One of the hardest conversations I had was explaining to J.J. what we were doing,” Cuban said before Thursday’s game against the Utah Jazz. “It wasn’t easy. It was down on the practice court. It was emotional.”
Not long after that meeting, Barea signed a four-year, $19 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves. But after three seasons in Minnesota, Barea is back with the Mavs. He received a buyout Monday and was waived by the Timberwolves.
“I’m excited to be back,” Barea said. “I’m a little older now, I know a little bit more. But I’m just excited to be back.”
Barea was owed $4.5 million by Minnesota in the last year of his contract, and the Timberwolves reached a buyout for $3.2 million. The Mavs ultimately signed Barea to a one-year, $1.31 million contract.
From 2006 until he departed in 2011, Barea grew as a player with the Mavs, whom he helped win the NBA championship in ’11 in six games over the Miami Heat. His grit and determination also helped him become a fan favorite.
“We brought him back because it was important to bring back a player that we feel can help us,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He has an unassuming resourcefulness as a player. He’s learned how to get a lot done and he’s got a big heart.”
As he was clearing waivers, Barea never considered playing anywhere else but in Dallas.
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“This was my first option, this was where I mostly felt comfortable going to,” he said. “So it worked out for me. It’s my second home away from Puerto Rico, so it’s comfortable for me.”
What was uncomfortable for Barea was that tense conversation with Cuban some three years ago. When the discussion ended, Cuban said: “He got it. That doesn’t mean he was happy about it.”
Because of his close relationship with Barea, Cuban is overjoyed the 6-foot guard has returned to the Mavs. That’s because their relationship was more than just about basketball, which is why Cuban was emotional during that conversation on the practice court.
“Sometimes some people say it’s just a business,” Cuban said. “But the best businesses are personal, very personal.
“And you want personal connections because I think it brings the best out of people. So that made it tough for all the guys we didn’t bring back.”
The Mavs know it’s going to take time for Chandler Parsons to find his niche within their organization.
Parsons struggled in his debut with the Mavs, scoring just five points on 2-of-10 shooting during Tuesday’s 101-100 loss to San Antonio. He had 21 points Thursday on 8-of-16 shooting.
“When you’re winning it’s real easy to adapt and let people find their roles, and Chandler is going to learn,” Cuban said. “He’ll learn from Dirk [Nowitzki], he’ll learn from Tyson [Chandler], he’ll learn from Jameer [Nelson].
“So he’s got a lot of good mentors that can help him get there. That’s one of the reasons why we were so excited about Tyson and Jameer, because they can be supportive and mentor guys like Chandler.”
Cuban said he would consider talking with guard Ray Allen about playing for the Mavs.
Allen, 39, helped Boston win the 2008 NBA title and played a key role in the Miami Heat winning the 2013 championship. While LeBron James is busy trying to woo Allen to Cleveland, Cuban is hoping he’ll eventually decide to play for the Mavs.