Timberwolves sign guard Barea

Published 9:13 am Thursday, December 15, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS — J.J. Barea is ready to team up with Ricky Rubio and add a little spice to the Minnesota Timberwolves’ backcourt.

Barea signed his four-year contract with the Timberwolves on Wednesday, and the flashy combo guard will be expected to help the slick-passing Rubio make the transition from Spain to the NBA, as well as provide some veteran leadership and direction for one of the league’s youngest teams.

“It’s been a tough couple weeks,” said Barea, who was hoping to return for another title run with the Dallas Mavericks before being told he was not in their long-term plans. “I just wanted to find a team. I’m excited to be here in Minnesota. I’m here to help this team as much as I can, bring my energy and passion to the game and my competitiveness, help my teammates, my coaches, whatever I have to do for this team to win basketball games.”

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After losing 132 games over the past two seasons, the Timberwolves can use all the help they can get. As much as they look forward to his playmaking ability and scoring off the bench, coach Rick Adelman and team president David Kahn were equally eager to add a veteran with playoff experience.

“He’s a proven leader on the floor and off and I think he can help us in ways well beyond the basketball court,” Kahn said. “I think he will be a tremendous help in our locker room in terms of rallying the guys. The coaches need help with that.”

Barea averaged 9.5 points and 3.9 assists for the Mavericks last season and emerged as a key cog in their run to the franchise’s first NBA title. He formed a formidable pick-and-roll combination with Dirk Nowitzki and gave the Lakers and Heat fits with his jitterbug style of getting into the lane and floating his tear-drop shots through the basket.

“He worked himself to a spot where he was a key player for them,” Adelman said. “I think that experience alone is going to help, that he’s been through it. You would think our young people would recognize that fact and listen to the things he has to say or follow the way he plays.”

If Barea had his choice, he would have returned to the Mavericks to try to defend the championship. He was deeply disappointed when owner Mark Cuban declined to make him a long-term offer.

“I didn’t understand why he was going the way he was going,” Barea said. “I thought he won and that’s what everybody dreams about, winning a championship. So I thought we were going to try to do it again with the same teammates, but it happens so you just have to forget about it and keep going.”