BOSTON — Coming back to Boston is full of great memories for J.J. Barea – and one not-so-great one.
His four years at Northeastern University helped shape him into the player and the person that he is now.
The gym there — Matthews Arena — is known as the house that Reggie Lewis built. But it’s also the house that built Barea.
When he showed up in 2002, this is what J.J. Barea knew about Boston:
“I knew the Patriots and Celtics played here, and the Red Sox,” he said. “But I didn’t know anything. I came here because it was my only scholarship to play Division I basketball.”
The way he got to Boston is almost as unusual as the way he got to the Mavericks in 2006, but more on that in a moment.
On Wednesday, Barea was back at TD Garden, where he went down last season with a torn calf muscle, and it brought up a whole other set of memories.
He knows now he shouldn’t have been playing in that game.
“I was hurting so bad,” he said. “My Achilles was killing me and I was this close to shutting it down for a while, but we lost Deron (Williams) and I felt like I needed to be out there.”
It ended up being an injury that impacted virtually all the rest of his season.
He returned Wednesday playing some of the best basketball of his career, leading the Mavericks in assists and third on the team in scoring. He had nine points, six assists and five rebounds in the loss to the Celtics.
He’s come a long way since his days at Northeastern. He won a championship with the Mavericks in 2011. And he’s never forgotten where he came from.
Beyond the Lewis, Barea is probably the best known former Husky to make it in the league. He’s the only alumnus to play more years in the NBA than Lewis’ six before his untimely death.
Coming back to Boston also reminds Barea how close he came to not being a Maverick at all.
After his senior year at Northeastern, he had been told that he would get a chance to be in an NBA training camp. But which one? It came down to two teams.
“My coach brought me into his office and said, if you keep working, you got a chance to make it at the next level,” Barea said. “I went to one summer league with Golden State and then the next summer league with Dallas, and they both invited me to training camp and I had to pick one camp to go to. I picked Dallas, and it worked out. But it was close.”
The Warriors were in between coaches at the time and Barea decided to take his chances with Avery Johnson and the Mavericks.
“It could have been a lot different if I’d gone the other way,” he said.
As they say, the rest is history.
On Tuesday night after the Mavericks got into Boston, Barea and some Maverick staffers went to Northeastern University where the Huskies played Bucknell.
It was a fundraiser night for the Puerto Rico hurricane relief efforts and Barea, who played at Northeastern from 2002-06, was the featured celebrity.
“It was great,” Barea said. “Even when there’s not a game, when we come back to Boston, I go over to the campus and just walk around. I love this town. And it’s always going to be special to me.”
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