Jose` Juan Barea of the Dallas Mavericks was honored by the Latino Sports Writers and Broadcasters Association (LSWBA) on Sunday afternoon, several hours prior to his team's contest against the Knicks, at Sofritos Restaurant on East 57th Street in Manhattan. The Puerto Rican native was made to feel at feel at home with the cuisine of his homeland. Julio Pabon, president of the LSWBA, said of the honored guest, "Playing in the NBA is like winning the lottery. You've probably won trophies since you first held a basketball in your hand." Rather than giving Barea another trophy, Pabon presented a beautiful drawing made by artist John Pinisi. Barea graciously thanked those present for the award and for their presence at the luncheon. He was also presented with the Estrella de Deportes award in recognition of Pureto Rican Heritage Month.
The Dallas point guard is the seventh Puerto Rican to play in the NBA. He said he was the only Puerto Rican currently active in the league. He does not consider his status to be stressful but does consider it to be a responsibility. He stated, "I feel no pressure because I know the fans in Puerto Rico always back me up. It is a responsibility because I want to open the doors for the next Puerto Rican players, especially guards." Being the only Hispanic player on the Mavericks in no way interferes with his relationship with his teammates. He explained, "I'm really comfortable with my teammates. We have a new coach, Rick Carlisle, who is completely different than our former coach, Avery Johnson." When asked his assessment of the new coach, he replied, "It's too early to tell."
Barea was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico but moved to Miami at the age of 17 to pursue his dream of playing basketball. He had a superlative senior season at Miami Christian High School. He led his team to the Class I-A state championship, and was named Miami-Dade Player of the Year.
The 6-0 point guard excelled during his four years at Northeastern. He completed his college career at Northeastern as one of its most heralded athletes. He is his college's second leading scorer, second in assists and first in three-point field goals. He was twice selected to the All America East First Team. After his school joined the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), he was chosen for the All CAA First team. In his senior year, Barea was the CAA Player of the Year and Mid-Major Player of the Year according to CollegeInsidrer.com.
Despite his outstanding college career, Barea was not drafted during the 2006 NBA Draft. The setback bothered the young man, "It was a little bit of a disappointment when I was not drafted. All I wanted was the chance to see if I could play in the NBA." The young athlete did not give up. He tried to display his ability by participating in post-college play. Barea played in the Portsmith Invitational Tournament, the Vegas Summer League and the Rocky Mountain Revue. His efforts earned him a one-year contract with the Dallas Mavericks. He played sparingly with Dallas during the 2006-7 season. Mid-season, he was assigned to the Fort Worth Flyers of the NBA Developmental League. Barea was pleased with his coach, teammates, and that "I was playing so many minutes regularly." His great play reflected his happiness, and he was back with Dallas after eight games. Braea started his first game in the NBA on April 17, 2007. Of that game, he reflected with a smile and replied. It was thrilling."
Barea received additional playing time with Dallas last season. The 24 year-old who is capable and desirous of playing regularly is sufficiently mature to overcome his disappointment and frustration of spending so much time on the bench with a very positive outlook. He explained, "It's hard when you want to play regularly. It's difficult, but you have to stay ready and keep a positive attitude.
Barea contributed to the Mavericks overtime victory at Madison Square Garden on Sunday evening. After not seeing action during the previous two contests, Barea was on court for nearly 14 minutes. He scored a season high of seven points, a season high of four assists, and had his only steal of the young season. Hopefully, his fine performance in New york will earn him additional playing time.