What rookie hype? Mavericks vet J.J. Barea turns back the clock and the Bulls
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There was a lot of pregame chatter about rookies Luka Doncic and Wendell Carter Jr. representing the future of the NBA, but it was a 34-year-old veteran — clearly shorter than his listed 6-0 height — that all but decided the Mavericks-Bulls game Monday.
‘‘They’ve got one of the most potent benches out there with the small lineup, and [backup point guard] J.J. [Barea] is the head of the snake,’’ Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said of Barea’s performance in the Mavericks’ 103-98 victory at the United Center.
In 24 minutes, Barea scored 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting, grabbed five rebounds, handed out five assists and was a plus-21.
‘‘He’s a crafty vet,’’ Bulls point guard Ryan Arcidiacono said of Barea. ‘‘I mean, he’s small, but he knows how to use his body, knows how to get to his spots and really puts pressure on the defense by getting in the paint. We wanted him taking some of those tough twos that he made, and then he’s making those and spraying it out for open threes. So he’s definitely tough.’’
As for Doncic and Carter, each showed flashes of strong play but also showed their youth. Carter had seven points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls (4-10), and Doncic had 11 points and three assists for the Mavericks.
Call it a bad night at the office.
‘‘Wendell and Doncic have great poise for their age, and you just look at what Doncic has accomplished early on in his life, as far as being the youngest MVP in the EuroLeague and how his game has translated to this level as quickly as it has,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘Then you look at what Wendell is doing for us and how his defensive instincts have helped us in a huge way. What I think has come quicker than people probably expected with Wendell is his offensive game and his ability to play a lot of different areas on the floor.’’
Doncic and Carter forever will be linked as far as the Mavericks are concerned. Coach Rick Carlisle admitted the Mavericks were set to draft Carter at No. 5 before the Hawks came in with a trade that enabled them to land Doncic at No. 3.
And while the game Monday wasn’t exactly a highlight reel for either rookie, expect each to play significant roles in the rebuilds of their respective franchises.
‘‘When you look at a lot of the players that were taken early, they’re just given opportunities to go out and show what they can do,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘Playing against [the Hawks’] Trae Young and seeing what he’s doing, the improvements he’s making. Doncic plays well beyond his years. [The Suns’] Deandre Ayton — I haven’t seen a lot of him, but we’ll see him in a couple of weeks — just looking at the numbers he’s putting up. [The Grizzlies’] Jaren Jackson is having a big impact. Mo Bamba down in Orlando. So all across the board, these early draft picks are making a big impact on their teams.’’
At least for one night, Barea didn’t get that memo.