Archives For JJ Barea

Jose Juan Barea, or “JJ” as I like to call him, deserves a lot of praise for the job he’s tried to do since Luke Ridnour joined Ricky Rubio in the trainer’s room.

These are unusual minutes for him. In his entire career, he’s played just 30 minutes or more 36 times (counting last night). That’s 36 times in just six seasons. 26 of those came in his five years with the Dallas Mavericks. He’s not used to this kind of load with minutes played and the responsibility of running a team that comes with them. It’s easy to dismiss this reality for him and say that he’s an NBA point guard and should be capable of doing this with the money he’s getting to be here.

However, that’s just not how the NBA often works. Guys need routines and they need specific roles that they’re accustomed to. For Barea, he’s always been the scorer off the bench that is inserted for measured minutes to spark the offense. I wrote when the signing happened that he’s here to be a change of pace running back type of player for the Wolves and that’s what he was until Ricky Rubio went down.

He’s played at least 30 minutes or more the last eight games and he’s trying to adapt to new responsibilities with the team. While it’s tired him out, bloodied his lip and made him the lone creator on offense for a few games in a row, he talked after the loss to Memphis about how much he’s enjoyed this change of a role and being able to fight alongside his teammates.

I think we can all agree that the Indiana loss was as pathetic as we’ve seen all season. It was a dead moment from the beginning and even an 18-0 run in the fourth quarter couldn’t keep this team from losing by fewer than 23 points. But in the last two home games now, we’ve seen an incredible fight in this young MASH unit that we’ve all been hoping to see.

It hasn’t led to any victories yet. The April losing streak still continues and is sitting ugly at 27 straight right now. However, it seems like this team is figuring out how to fight when there is nothing more than pride and momentum to play for.

This Memphis team is still rounding back into form with getting Zach Randolph back to himself, and yet they’re still a much better team than anything this group of Wolves should be able to handle. Minnesota was right there in the thick of the fourth quarter last night with a chance to steal a home victory though. When Anthony Tolliver’s 3-point play was taken away for an odd offensive foul call, it changed the momentum of a potential victory.

Now the Wolves needed to answer back after hoping to build a four-point lead with 3:49 left and they fell short. The shots stopped falling and turnovers occurred. They couldn’t guard Rudy Gay over the final four minutes of the game. And yet, JJ Barea had this squad within three points and less than a minute to go.

At a certain point, you look at this roster and realize with the injuries this is all you can really ask for – a chance to win and hope for the losing streak to end.

Since Luke went down with his ankle injury, Barea has been clawing and troubleshooting his performances as the lead guard on the court. He’s averaged 16.1 points, 9.1 assists, 3.8 turnovers and 34.8 minutes per game. He’s shooting 43.1% from the field and 48.8% from 3. This isn’t some jaw-dropping line by any means. They’re good numbers for a starting point guard but they aren’t numbers that make you feel comfortable with situation at hand.

What they show is that JJ Barea has decided to help fight for this team. Whether guys like Beasley, Wes, Martell, and Randolph will step up doesn’t really matter. Their production will come and go but Barea is going to fight with whomever is willing to step to the front of the line. I don’t know that it means much heading into next season. Ideally, Ricky will be back, Luke will be his backup and Barea will be the change of pace running back off the bench. We will hopefully never rely on Barea to fill in this role in the next three years.

That doesn’t mean that right now it’s not nice to see someone on this team step up and play for pride. I actually have hope that either the Pistons or the Warriors will fall to the Wolves in the next five days and we’ll no longer have to count consecutive April losses.

JJ Barea is managing his way through his new role and he’s enjoying the experience of fighting alongside his teammates right now. And I actually am enjoying watching that.

This one was not so fun.

Game six of the seven-game road trip looked like this team was just tired of being away from the Target Center. The energy was low, the effort was inadequate and the Wolves just seemed like they wanted out of there. I don’t really blame them. Not having Pekovic and Rubio has taken a toll on this team. The inside of the lane is a lot harder to patrol for the Wolves on both ends. The top of the defense is trying, but they’re just not the same without Rubio and his elastic wingspan deterring basic passes around the perimeter and into the post.

Gregg Popovich probably knew exactly how this game was going to go. Without Pekovic inside, he was going to make Love be a primary defender against the older but still effective Tim Duncan. If the Wolves fought back early, he’d probably unleash Manu and Parker drives all night. If not, he’d let Timmy break the will of Minnesota by showing them that even this old man could kick their butts on any given night. The Spurs had their perimeter attack waiting in the wings (no pun intended… okay, maybe it was a little intended) to unleash on a tired and road weary Wolves team. The Spurs are number one in the league in 3-point percentage and they’ll break your backs and runs with it.

In the end, the Wolves just were outmanned and out-energized for this game. One more Friday night in OKC before they get to come home and reacquaint themselves with home briefly. Grades after the jump. Continue Reading…

I’m not the biggest video game nerd in the world, but I used to go nuts over playing Mega Man. There was something so captivating about a guy in a little blue, pixelated suit, trying to shoot Kix cereal at bad guys coming at you from right to left.

Maybe I was just a huge Running Man fan as a child because there was the Light Bright guy trying to saw the Terminator in half or something. I’m not quite sure what the allure was. But I had a really fun time jumping and shooting at attackers from all angles. When they had a sequel of Mega Man in which you could earn powers and become a guy wielding wind or fire or earth or the Temptations, it was hard for me to imagine having more fun playing a video game as a kid. They had taken such a simple concept and added options for attack.

Mega Man had so many weapons now and it was fun to experiment with them on different levels and see which ones got you through the battles on any given pixelated plane. It’s a lot like watching Kevin Love the last two seasons. Kevin Love is the Mega Man of the NBA. He’s unassuming from the outsider’s perspective. You wouldn’t expect the evolution of a stretch-4 to be looking at your right in the face when you see him. Continue Reading…

Do you remember the Wolves-Lakers game in March from last season?

The Wolves didn’t know it yet, but they were in the early stages of a 15-game losing streak to end the season and clinch the worst record in the NBA. What stood out that game was Wes Johnson went off against Kobe Bryant. He scored early and he scored often, totaling 29 points on 11/21 shooting. Kobe had an off night, partly due to Wes’ defense on him, scoring just 18 points on 7/16 shooting. It was a beacon of hope at the end of a tumultuous season.

Then this season happened and Wes has been so bad shooting the basketball that people (myself included) wonder why he’s even out there. His confidence has seemed shot and he wasn’t attacking the basket like he promised before the season started.  Continue Reading…

That was the weirdest and most fun comeback I’ve experienced in a long time.

There was no reason for the Wolves to win that game last night and maybe that’s why the comeback was so fun. Everything was working against Minnesota for so long in that game, that the comeback never really seemed real to me until the final minute of the game. The Wolves were essentially without three of their starters for most of this contest, even though they logged a combined 99 minutes in the game.

Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic were not good last night. Rubio looked slow and incapable of running the offense. He made a couple of 3-pointers, but he seemed more intent on earning foul calls than getting quality shots in the second half. Nikola Pekovic was playing on a bum ankle, but didn’t seem to be really affected by it. He just couldn’t make shots inside, no matter how many times he grabbed the rebound. And then there was Kevin Love.

Before the game, Love talked about how he’s wiped out physically. During the first few minutes of the game, it looked like something was seriously wrong with him. When Utah jumped out to an early lead, Adelman called a timeout to quell the storm. As Love came to the bench, he was completely red and sucking in as much oxygen as he could possibly manage. He had his head in a towel with Michael Beasley trying to offer words of encouragement. It looked as though he had an illness, and maybe he did if you consider pure exhaustion to be an ailment.

So there the Wolves were; getting their teeth kicked in by an impressive frontcourt. First 20 points of the game for Utah were scored in the paint. They were bullying Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic like it was two Darkos. Passes were being picked off, dribbles were being lost and the easiest of interior shots were complicated endeavors.  Continue Reading…

Stars in the NBA can be incredible, stat-accumulating displays of effort, skill and whatever that extra special something is that makes them the elite 1% of NBA players. We marvel at their touch, power, speed, agility, and hand-eye coordination throughout a basketball game. We want to buy their jerseys and show everybody which star we back on a nightly basis.

Stars are only as good as the role players around them. Many people feel like it is the duty and mission of NBA stars to make those around them better, and to a certain extent it certainly seems to be a recipe for success. However, the top players in the NBA can’t necessarily give the role players on their team the confidence to make big shots, or the wherewithal to know when to step up to close out a team. Continue Reading…

Friends, the longest night of the year has come and gone. The lockout is now, miraculously, a bitter memory. Ricky Rubio, Rick Adelman, Derrick Williams, the svelte, newly athletic Kevin Love and all of the rest of your Wolves will soon take the floor for an actual, certified NBA game. So how’s this gonna go? This year’s Wolves are a strange amalgamation of moving parts and oddly shaped puzzle pieces.  Although we’re hopeful that something new and great is about to begin, there are still scads of unanswered questions hanging in the air. Zach, Myles and I have no better idea than the rest of you how this will all play out, but here’s our best shot untangling some of the riddles that will inform the Wolves’ season. All that’s left to do is play basketball. Read on…

Continue Reading…

BREAKING NEWS: Sources say, Wolves went 2-0 in the preseason against the Bucks.

So as we prepare for the Preseason Playoff series against the 2-0 Clippers, I thought I would share some notes I made on Wolves players from the two games we just witnessed.
Continue Reading…

According to reports (who have sources on sources on sources), the Wolves have signed Jose Juan Barea, formerly of the Dallas Mavericks, to a four-year, $19 million contract.

Not exactly going after DeAndre Jordan, right?

In fact, it’s the exact opposite of what I was hoping for the other day. The Wolves need a defensive, athletic big man in the worst way, and JJ Barea doesn’t bring any of that to the team. But they also need a perimeter player who can create quality shots for not only his teammates but also himself. Barea definitely brings that to this team.

Am I talking myself into JJ Barea even though I worried some team out there would overpay him to be their starting point guard? Absolutely, I am. However, I do think there is a lot of good that comes out of this signing. Let’s discuss a few points.

The money. Four years and $19 million seems like a lot for a backup guard, right? Maybe it does. But it’s also a pretty manageable contract over the length of the deal. As of right now, the Wolves have roughly $58 million committed to the roster for 16 slots (once Malcolm Lee signs). That means they’ll have to amnesty (most likely) Martell Webster to get to the allowable 15 players under contract.

After this season, let’s assume Webster is gone with the amnesty and Brad Miller is waived because his $5.1 million deal is only guaranteed for $848,000. With Beasley’s free agency, Randolph’s restricted free agency, and Anthony Tolliver’s contract being up, that puts the Wolves around $31 million in committed salary. Factor in the cap holds for Anthony Randolph and the extension to Kevin Love (even if it’s – gulp! – max) and you’re still looking at around $10 million in cap space for the summer of 2012.

The only current deals that run past 2013 are Luke Ridnour, rookie deals, and this Barea contract. Throw in Kevin Love’s extension (please, Kevin) and there is still plenty of flexibility for a team that just gave $5 million per season to the third point guard on the roster.

The fit. This is the biggest question for the Wolves. How does Barea fit into the plan moving forward if the keys are supposed to be in Rubio’s hands? Let me off this analogy for you.

Some football teams have grind it out, power running backs that are there to bully you for four yards every rushing play and try to beat down the opposing team’s defensive front. They’re big, burly and just powerful enough to feel like you’re tackling a train. It’s a pretty good strategy in this situation to have a speedy, small-statured running back as the backup to this locomotive of yards per carry. It’s a change of pace that can be difficult for the defense to adjust to on random downs, even if they know the bruiser is out of the game at the moment and they get to see the quick running back.

I know that you’re probably thinking that Rubio isn’t a bruiser. They want to push the pace with him and Barea won’t push the pace anywhere beyond that speed. But here’s where the change up is. Adelman’s system doesn’t involve a ton of pick-and-rolls. It’s a lot of movement, backdoor cutting, and high post-centered sets. Teams will be prepared for that and try to be cognizant of all set-ups to fake out the defense. However, when you bring Barea off the bench, you can automatically throw in a few wrinkles of pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pop action to catch the defense on their heels.

Barea is one of the best pick-and-roll ball handlers in the NBA. He was 14th in points per possession scored last season while running the pick-and-roll. He’s not the ideal passer in that situation. In fact, he often takes the shot. But efficient points are something this offense didn’t easily come by last season. He’s also a very good scorer in isolation sets. He ranked 14th there too in PPP, shooting exactly 50% from the field in those situations.

The question becomes, well don’t the Wolves already have a player in Luke Ridnour who is also very good in those situations? Yes, they do. Ridnour ranked 42nd and 41st in pick-and-roll ball handling and isolation situations, respectively. He’s also a much better spot-up shooter, making 49.3% of his spot-up 3-pointers compared to Barea’s 30.3%. Defensively, they were the exact same player, tying 188th in points per possession given up overall.

So is Barea’s moderate increase in efficiency when isolated and in pick-and-rolls that important to justify the signing? I would argue that it is. Barea is an annoying mosquito to the defense when he’s on fire. And while he can be frustrating on nights his effect on the game is minimal, his offensive outbursts can be momentarily suffocating to opposing teams when he’s on top of his game. You can’t really say the same about Luke. Aside from an exciting triple-double watch at the end of last season, Ridnour was always fairly steady but never that momentum changing when he wasn’t turning over the ball at a career-worst rate.

You can experiment playing Barea and Rubio together. I doubt it will even come close to working in the first two seasons, but it gives you options for creating havoc in the halfcourt that this team hasn’t had in a long time. It’s not a perfect signing, but it’s also not like we just signed the Darko version of a point guard to the roster either.

Kahn point guard jokes. I love a good David Kahn joke as much as the next disgruntled Wolves fan, but the fact of the matter is this team doesn’t have a copious amount of point guards. They had two on the roster before the Barea signing and can use Malcolm Lee as a combo guard of sorts whenever they need to. But ultimately, Lee should be focused on filling the awkwardly vacant shooting guard spot on the floor for the Wolves.

A lot of NBA teams have three point guards on the roster. Yes, David Kahn “drafted three point guards” during his first draft for the franchise (even though Lawson was the Nuggets selection in order to complete the trade), but it’s much more with-the-times to make small forward or SF/PF tweener jokes about Kahn. Look at how many small forwards and 3/4 guys this team has. Forward-tweeners are the new point guards in Minnesota. Update your joke-making Rolodex, please.

Overall, I like the options that the Barea signing gives this team. I know there will be nights in which I will look back at my enthusiasm from this post and probably realize I was just happy the contract wasn’t for $30 million as I’m cursing his name during cold stretches. But there will also be nights in which this looks like a beautiful addition to the team as he and Kevin Love are surgically destroying the opposing team’s halfcourt defense.