DALLAS — Guard J.J. Barea is giddy to be back in the city he calls his second home.
A lot has changed since Barea’s first stint with the Dallas Mavericks — including his jersey number, which is No. 5 now because Monta Ellis owns No. 11 — but not the comfortable feeling Barea gets from being part of the franchise that developed him from an undrafted prospect to a key part of the 2011 title team.
After negotiating a buyout of the final season of his contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves and clearing waivers, Barea rejoined the Mavs on Monday, signing a deal for the veteran’s minimum of $1.3 million.
“I wish I would have never left, but things happen,” Barea said after Monday’s shootaround, his first workout with the team since rejoining the Mavs. “They happen for a reason.”
Of course, Barea’s bank account is happy he left his second home. Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who made creating salary-cap space a priority after the 2011 lockout, offered only a one-year deal, so it was an easy financial decision to accept Minnesota’s four-year, $18 million offer.
Barea said he appreciated being treated with respect during his three seasons with the Timberwolves, but he’s refreshed to be back in Dallas with a team that is a legitimate threat in the Western Conference.
“I missed it,” said Barea, who hasn’t been to the playoffs since starting the last few games of the 2011 Finals. “I’m excited to be back. The best five years of my life were here. Hopefully we can get this going again.”
The 6-foot Barea, who has career averages of 8.3 points and 3.4 assists, adds another proven, experienced playmaker to a crowded Dallas backcourt rotation. With Jameer Nelson and Ellis entrenched as the starters, Barea joins Devin Harris and Raymond Felton as off-the-bench options, although Felton is still at least a week away as he recovers from a high-ankle sprain and serves his four-game suspension.
The Mavs didn’t make any promises about playing time to Barea. In fact, he didn’t discuss his role with coach Rick Carlisle until after he had agreed to the deal to return to Dallas.
“Whatever they need me to do, I’ll be ready,” said Barea, expressing his trust in Carlisle to figure out the best combinations.
Said Carlisle: “We’ve got a lot of options, so there’s a lot of different ways we can go and a lot of different things we can do situationally depending on size and matchups and this, that and the other.
“It’s a good problem to have and I’m happy we have it.”
And Barea is happy to be back home.