Mavs’ Barea finds role in Butler’s absence

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    With forward Caron Butler inactive, Mavericks guard Juan Jose Barea is proving himself a capable starter when called upon.

    The 6-foot, undersized hoopster scored a season-high 25 points in the Mavericks’ triumph over the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 25 and recorded 20 points in a 102-100 victory over Sacramento Wednesday, extending Dallas’ win-streak to 10 games. Serving only his fifth year in the NBA, Barea continues to bring energy to the team.

    “I feel good and I just have to be aggressive,” Barea said. “I just want to bring energy to the team and do whatever I can do to get us going.”

    The Northeastern University alumni registered a career-high 29 points off the bench New Year’s Day and has scored 20-plus points three times during the Mavs’ 10-game win-streak. The Mavericks are 14-3 this season when Barea scores in double figures.

    “He gives us an incredible spark,” teammate and starting center Tyson Chandler said. “He’s a guy that’s found his shot.”

    Mavericks’ veteran and likely Hall of Famer Jason Kidd is the starting point guard, but Barea is willing to bring something to the table when his name is called. The guard has found ways to play tremendously on offensive and defensive.

    “He’s tough, and I have guys challenging J.J. from family friends to the YMCA,” shooting guard Jason Terry said. “They want to come and take his spot, but no one’s taking his spot. He’s one of the toughest players on the team, and you can see what he does offensively. He’s tough to guard, and he finds a way to get the job done.”

    Barea represented Puerto Rico in five games at the FIBA World Championship in Istanbul in 2010. The 174-pounder has exposed his athletic ability with his skill and practice he’s provided for the Mavericks.

    Players will always have bad shooting nights during some point in their career, Barea said. Barea, who’s averaging 20.5 minutes per game and nine points per game, experienced shooting woes earlier this season. The environment and team spirit has ignited the fifth-year guard to improve.

    “Every shot he’s taken in the last week or two has looked good,” former MVP and 10-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki said. “It’s funny how this league works sometimes.”

    “He couldn’t buy a [3-pointer] earlier in the season. He was shooting 70 percent from [3-point range] a month or so ago. Now, the last couple of weeks he’s been fun to watch, staying aggressive, taking off the dribble and looking for the shot. It’s great to have him playing well.”