Wolves' Barea pointing to the future

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 19, 2011 - 7:21 AM

J.J. Barea has moved on after helping Dallas win a title.

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J.J. Barea

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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J.J. Barea's arrival at Target Center provides the Timberwolves with more than another needed playmaker and ball-handler, and one with championship experience at that.

It offers a very important question as well:

Just what should we call this speedy, spinning, Spanish-speaking backcourt now that new coach Rick Adelman seems intent on playing Barea and Ricky Rubio together?

"That's on you guys and the fans," Barea told reporters after making his Wolves' debut in Saturday's preseason opener against Milwaukee. "I'll take whatever."

Still working himself into game shape after signing a four-year, $19 million contract Wednesday, Barea played more than he probably expected in that 117-96 victory over the Bucks.

Most of those 26-plus minutes came alongside Rubio, just as Barea often played with point guards Jason Kidd and Jason Terry for NBA champion Dallas last season, and alongside his pal Carlos Arroyo on the Puerto Rican national team.

"No question, I like it," he said.

Barea and Rubio combined for 20 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds. More importantly, they delivered hints of the kind of energy and flash for which Wolves fans have been waiting for years.

Barea, at age 27, has given up another season of championship aspirations in Dallas for financial security and a strange new role as senior ambassador in Minnesota.

He didn't do so by choice: Dallas owner Mark Cuban declined to offer a multi-year contract after last spring's title run because he wants to save salary cap for next summer's bountiful free-agent class.

The Mavs didn't re-sign center Tyson Chandler, either.

"I didn't feel good, I just didn't understand why he was going the way he's going," Barea said. "We won it and that's what everybody dreams about, winning a championship, you know? I thought the thing was to do it again with your same teammates, but it didn't happen so you just have to forget about it and keep going."

Barea signed with the Wolves because he said no other team offered nearly the kind of money and attention Minnesota sent his way.

By doing so, he goes from a team that won 57 games and a championship last season to one that hasn't made the playoffs since 2004.

"It's a new -- how do you say? -- game for me," said Barea, who was signed by the Mavs undrafted out of Northeastern University in 2006. "It's a new experience. I like it, like I had to leave Puerto Rico to go to college. That was hard. I had to make the team in Dallas and prove myself in the NBA. That was hard. Now I have to help this team out."

He liked what he saw in Saturday's preseason opener, when the Wolves made 10 of 11 three-point shots in the first half alone.

"I know we can score the ball," Barea said after the game. "I don't know if we're going to be that good every night. This team, if we play defense and rebound every night, you never know what could happen. We've got people who can score on this team. I'm excited for this team."

Wolves President of Basketball Operations David Kahn said the Wolves pursued Barea because they need his skills and leadership as well as point-guard insurance during a grueling, lockout-shortened 66-game season.

He said it mattered little that Barea speaks Rubio's native language here in this new land.

"I just think we need more vocal, demonstrative leadership on and off the court," Kahn said, "and J.J. has proven he's capable of doing that and wants to do that. It's not something we even asked him to do. That's his nature, his personality and it really fit neatly. Ricky is going to be fine.

"I'm sure J.J. is going to help Ricky in his own way, but there are about 12 other guys that J.J. will be able to help in every language."

  • TIMBERWOLVES PRESEASON Wednesday: 7 p.m. at Milwaukee (exhibit.) • TV: FSN (830-AM) • Next Monday: Season opener vs. Oklahoma City, 7 p.m. • TV: FSN (830-AM)

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