Barea may cash in on performance
MIAMI — It was a bizarre scene in AmericanAirlines Arena for Game 6 of the NBA Finals Sunday night. Every time J.J. Barea made an important play, such as one of his critical 3-pointers or driving layups, the Heat crowd offered a polite applause for the Mavericks guard.
It was a sign of respect for the Miami native and former Northeastern standout. And there may not be a player whose stock rose so dramatically in the playoffs. The Mavericks began clicking the moment coach Rick Carlisle inserted Barea into the starting lineup for Game 4 of the Finals. Barea’s performance in the final three Dallas wins may have convinced other clubs that he’s prepared to be a starting point guard.
And it just so happens that Barea is a free agent this summer and could cash in on his Finals success after the league and Players Association decide on a new collective bargaining agreement. Barea earned $1.8 million last season, and almost certainly would garner a raise because of his ability to drive into the paint and run an offense.
After a 5-for-23 shooting start in the Finals, Barea rallied to convert 16 of his final 32 shots, including a 15-point, 5-assist, 3-rebound effort in the decisive Game 6.
Will he return to Dallas? Owner Mark Cuban said he wants to keep his championship club intact, but that will be difficult considering a new CBA almost certainly will reduce salaries and the salary cap.
The Celtics would love to be in the mix for Tyson Chandler, who gave Dallas a defensive and rebounding presence inside. Chandler earned $12.6 million in the final year of his contract and bringing him back will be more difficult than Barea.
“Right when [Chandler] got there, we kind of viewed him as our quote, unquote, Kevin Garnett,’’ Cuban said. “The guy that was going to be vocal, that was going to hold people accountable. I remember having conversations with him, it’s OK to yell. This team has enough camaraderie and trust that you can do those types of things. He kept on bringing it.’’
Other Mavericks free agents are Caron Butler, who did not play in the Finals because of a knee injury, and DeShawn Stevenson, who likely increased his marketability by draining 13 of 23 3-pointers and playing solid defense against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Cuban said it will be tough to bring the entire roster back.
Spoelstra safe Miami team sources said Erik Spoelstra’s job was never in jeopardy this season and he will get an opportunity to make another NBA title run next year. The Heat will have to rework the roster around James, Wade, and Chris Bosh. Miami was forced to sign a group of aging veterans to minimum contracts because of salary-cap issues.
Spoelstra was asked whether this current Heat team has enough to win a title in 2011-12.
“Well, I mean that will be a great question for my mentor, for [team president] Pat Riley,’’ Spoelstra said. “Clearly, sitting where I am right now, I felt we had enough. And certainly you could watch this series and each game over and over and make a case that we had enough. But in the moment of truth, [the Mavericks] played better than us four times.’’
Spoelstra was criticized for waiting too long to insert third-year guard Mario Chalmers into the starting lineup. He ended the Finals fourth on Miami in scoring at 11.8 points per game and added 3.5 assists. He is a restricted free agent this summer, while Eddie House, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and James Jones have player options.
Erick Dampier, Jamaal Magloire, Juwan Howard, and Mike Bibby are all free agents and not expected to return.
Print it! Mavericks forward Shawn Marion pulled a Ron Artest and walked into the working media area Sunday night, as many members were writing on deadline, and greeted reporters. “We’re the [expletive] champions,’’ Marion said on his way out of AmericanAirlines Arena. Last year, during his postgame interview after the Lakers’ win over the Celtics, Artest gave a shout-out to the reporters who were working nearby, asking them to raise their hands and acknowledge him . . . Viewership for the Finals drew a 10.1 rating, slightly down from the 10.6 of last season.
Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com.