Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  By PHIL ERVIN  |  Last updated 11/8/13
MINNEAPOLIS -- Every time the Mavericks come to town, J.J.Barea gets to relive it.A stunned Miami Heat crowd. LeBron James walking off thefloor, bitter disappointment in his eyes. Dirk Nowitzki doing the same withtears of joy in his.Then came the championship parade and celebration upon the2011 champions' return to Dallas, winding through downtown's heat-blanketedstreets before culminating inside the American Airlines Center. That summer,Barea signed with Minnesota for four years and 19 million, leaving themetroplex a changed man."It's always going to be in my head and on my heart,"Barea said of his five years with the Mavericks. "It was great what we hadover there, and I've got some good friends, so whenever we play them, it'sspecial. I always want to beat them."Barea has remained closest with Nowitzki, the 35-year-old faceof the Dallas franchise who's still producing at an elite clip in his 16th NBAseason. Those two and some members of the Mavericks' training and equipmentstaffs met for dinner Thursday night ahead of the teams' first 2013-14 clash.It allowed them to reminisce on Barea's four huge 3-pointersin Dallas' Game 6 clincher at Miami. Or Corey Brewer -- now a Timberwolvesstarter, then a little-used, late-season addition -- coming off the bench toprovide a spark in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series againstthe Lakers.Nowitzki earned Finals MVP honors. Three seasons later, he'sa little slower and more fragile. "His better years are gone," Bareasaid.But he's still got the scoring touch and came into Fridayaveraging 19.4 points per game."He loves to hoop, like we say," said Barea, whopredicts his old German friend has at least two Dirk-like years left in him."Him and Kobe, I think, are the hardest workers in the NBA. So he's goingto be around."Brewer had similar praise for Nowitzki. That same 2011season, Minnesota traded Brewer to New York -- who subsequently waived him,allowing him to sign with the Mavericks -- then re-signed him as a free agentthis offseason. He manned spot duty in six games during the Mavs' playoff runbut gleaned lessons on detail from Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion and TysonChandler.Then he took them to Denver the past two seasons andblossomed into the feisty swingman the Timberwolves inked to a three-year,14.1 million deal this summer."I feel like every little thing matters, I guess youcould say," Brewer said. "Little things matter, too. Dirk, thelittle things he does, it means a lot at the end of the day."Both Brewer and Barea are off to notable starts this season.Brewer has locked down on most of his defensive duties and is scoring 13.2points per game (third on the team). Barea continues to be the sparkplug pointman behind Ricky Rubio the Timberwolves brought him here to be.The 29-year-old Barea still possesses the quick first stepand long-range ability that gave opponents -- most notably the Heat --headaches during that memorable title jaunt in 2011."He was a headache when we had him, too," jokedDallas coach Rick Carlisle, who took the reins from Avery Johnson ahead of the2008-09 campaign. "No, hes a terrific player, and you know the (three)years with him were great years for me and great years for our club."Dallas' Carter suspended: Another veteran on one of theNBA's most seasoned clubs, swingman Vince Carter, wont be allowed to suit upfor Friday night's contest.Carter, in his 16th season, earned a one-game suspension forhis elbow to Oklahoma City center Steven Adams' head during Wednesday's Thunderwin. Carter's deliberatelyswung right arm caught Adams, a rookie, square in the jaw and drew a flagrantfoul 2 call after a video review.Carlisle called the loss of Carter "significant"but said he's confident in Jae Crowder, Wayne Ellington and Ricky Ledo to plugthe gap by committee. A career20.8-points-per-game scorer, Carter averaged 9.2 points through the Mavericks'first five games."Well have to use our depth to make up for theloss," Carlisle said. "Thats where were at. Theres not a lot ofanalyzing here. We just have to be ready."Pekovic mentoring Dieng: Nikola Pekovic remembers what it'slike to be Gorgui Dieng.A new city, new teammates, new coach and dealing with muchstronger, more physical play than even muscular big men like Minnesota's twoactive centers had experienced can make for a difficult rookie transition.Pekovic went through it in 2010, and Dieng's experiencing it now."I've been in his situation," Pekovic said."I know it's kind of frustrating. I always try to help him, try to teachhim how to play against big guys."One of the toughest challenges is avoiding foul trouble,especially for a rim protector like Dieng. In 23 minutes spread across threegames, he's up to 10 whistles and just three blocked shots.Pekovic's game has always been more scoring- andrebound-oriented. But he, too, struggled to adjust defensively during his firstNBA action.The big man from Montenegro committed four fouls in each ofhis first three NBA appearances as a rookie.Pekovic and Minnesota's other leaders can give Diengpointers, but it's ultimately up to the new guy to discover his own linebetween aggression and overzealousness, Pekovic said."He's a rookie," Pekovic said. "He wants toshow that he really belongs here. He's a really hard worker. He's a greatguy, but sometimes we talk to him. He'll need to figure out by himself, youknow, that you can be really aggressive all the time." Follow Phil Ervin on Twitter
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