The Dallas Mavericks have lost an important piece in their push for a return to respectability with guard J.J. Barea’s season-ending Achilles injury.
Barea tore his right Achilles tendon in the fourth quarter of a 119-115 victory at Minnesota on Friday night. The team said Saturday that Barea was weighing his options for surgery.
The 34-year-old Barea was averaging 10.9 points and a team-high 5.6 assists as a key part of the second unit for Dallas. The injury is likely to mean a significant increase in playing time for rookie Jalen Brunson, a two-time NCAA champion at Villanova and second-round draft pick.
Barea is in his second stint with the Mavericks after being a catalyst for Dallas’ rally from a 2-1 deficit in the 2011 NBA Finals against Miami. The Mavericks won the franchise’s only title in six games.
Boosted by a sensational rookie season so far from third overall pick Luka Doncic, the Mavericks are seeking a return to the playoffs after falling out of the race early and finishing near the bottom of the Western Conference the past two seasons.
Losing the trusty veteran presence of Barea won’t help. He was a big part of what made Dallas deeper than it has been in several years, with his pick-and-roll ability and playmaking in the lane helping the offense’s efficiency.
Barea was technically the backup to starting point guard Dennis Smith Jr., although the 21-year-old in his second season has missed 14 games, mostly with a right wrist sprain.
Smith’s absence has made the versatile 19-year-old Doncic the starter at the point. Once Smith is healthy, Barea’s injury could increase his presence in the rotation.
There’s no question Brunson will get more opportunities after his role has varied widely through the first half of the season. While he has spent most of the season in the rotation, he’s had stretches where he played sparingly or not at all.
After Barea’s injury, Brunson hit a big 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter against the Timberwolves before Doncic scored seven straight Dallas points, the last on a 3 that put the Mavericks ahead for good with 23 seconds left.
The injury to Barea came against the only other team for which the native of Puerto Rico has played.
He signed a four-year, $17 million contract with the Timberwolves after winning the title with the Mavericks. Barea returned to Dallas after agreeing to a buyout of the final year of the deal with Minnesota. He’s in the final season of a four-year contract with the Mavericks.
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