Barea weighs his Dallas past, Wolves future

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 2, 2012 - 12:49 AM

He'd like to face his old team, but reinjury is a concern.

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J.J. Barea (11) made a name for himself with Dallas last postseason, when he helped the Mavericks beat the Heat for the NBA championship. Now with the Wolves, Barea missed facing the Heat on Friday, but he hopes to play against his old team Sunday.

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New Timberwolves guard J.J. Barea will test his healing hamstring Sunday and then use that information to decide whether he's fit to play that night against a Dallas team he won an NBA title with last season.

The question is whether he'll listen to his head or his heart.

"I've got to make it with everything," he said after practicing Saturday. "I want to play. It's looking good for tomorrow, but I want to make sure I'm fully ready to go."

His head tells him now -- just one week into a demanding, shortened 66-game season -- is no time to risk aggravating such a delicate type of injury.

"You don't want it to keep bothering you the whole season, especially when we got seven games in 10 days coming up," he said. "We've got a lot of games."

His heart tells him he so badly wants to play against the team that won a championship last season and then chose not to re-sign him, Tyson Chandler and DeShawn Stevenson so owner Mark Cuban can reserve salary-cap space for next summer, when Dallas-raised Deron Williams and Dwight Howard are expected to become unrestricted free agents.

"Well, you know, it's Dallas," Barea said. "I've got all friends there. I spent five years there, so we did a lot of stuff over there. It will be a little bit weird out there guarding my teammates."

He doesn't hide his disappointment that the Mavericks chose to tear apart last season's title team so they can position themselves for a new world in which a much more restricted luxury-tax system will arrive two seasons from now.

They offered only a one-year contract, so Barea accepted the Wolves' four-year, $19 million offer for a tiny guard who so disrupted Miami in last spring's NBA Finals that the Heat asked LeBron James to defend him at times.

"He had a tremendous impact on the Finals," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He's a very good basketball player who now has been rewarded for his play in this league, with not only a championship but also a well-due contract."

And now Dallas has started the season 1-3 after getting thumped by Miami and Denver at home, losing at Oklahoma City on Kevin Durant's buzzer-beating three-pointer and finally beating Toronto.

"The chemistry was really there for them last year," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "Everybody knew their role. Everybody did their role, and now that's all changed. They've got so much talent. It's just going to take them some time."

The Mavericks added Lamar Odom, Vince Carter and Delonte West after they allowed the aforementioned three players to sign elsewhere, but don't say Barea, Chandler and Stevenson were replaced.

"It changed the whole team completely," Barea said. "You ask them in the locker room and they'll tell you the same. You can ask the coach and he'll tell the same. The energy of me and Tyson and the character that Stevenson brought to the team, nobody is going to have that on their team. They're missing that."

Barea hoped to visit with some of his former teammates on New Year's Eve, after he moved into his new Minneapolis apartment.

"Well, I'm not going to do it," he said. "I'll be watching other people do it."

It's his new life here in Minnesota for the next four years.

"Those are my friends, five great years of my life there," Barea said. "But this is my home, my life now and I'm excited about it."

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