It's pretty unbelievable what J.J. Barea has been doing for his team lately.
Generously listed at six-foot-nothing on the Dallas Mavericks website, the Mavericks' miniature dynamo looks more like a guy you might play in a pickup game at the local gym than a guy who starts for an NBA Finals team.
The story of the 2011 NBA Finals so far has been Dirk Nowitzki and his team versus Miami's Big Three. At times, Nowitzki has been a lone superstar, having to carry the Mavs on his back and getting very little support.
In Game 4, the rest of the Mavericks started showing some serious signs of life. Barea himself hit in spectacular fashion on a pair of very difficult drives.
Perhaps this was the wakeup call that he needed to get himself going in this series.
What Barea lacks in size he makes up for in confidence. That was never more apparent in Game 5. Despite being 1-for-10 on three-point attempts during the first four games of the series, Barea never doubted his shot. He kept taking and taking them, nailing four threes at crucial junctures that kept the Mavericks' momentum rolling.
Barea seemed to be all over the place in Game 5. Darting into the lane at will to find open teammates. Stepping back and drilling long-range bombs. Banking in a beautiful driving runner. Skying to rip an offensive rebound out of the sky. Spinning and finishing on a dazzling left-handed scoop at the rim.
It hasn't been an easy road for Barea to get to where he is now. He fought his way onto the Mavericks' roster after going undrafted in 2006, despite being extremely productive at the NCAA level.
Somehow, Barea crafted a unique style of play and established along the way that he belongs in the NBA. Maybe it's the propensity for hitting big shots. Maybe it's the surgical precision with which he splits opponents' defenses. Or his ability to consistently hit tough floaters over much taller opponents.
Whatever he's doing, it's working for him.
These days, everything seems to be working out nicely for Barea. He dates former Miss Universe Zuleyka Rivera. He is a hero and celebrity in his native country of Puerto Rico. He plays a vital role on the Dallas Mavericks, a powerhouse NBA team.
Here's hoping that J.J. Barea has another piece to add to an already impressive list of accomplishments: an NBA championship.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!