Is Jose Juan Barea For Real?

J.J. Barea1.jpg He just can't be. Can he?

I was in the fifth row at American Airlines Center Saturday night and I still don't believe what I saw. Or heard.

Either Criss Angel is playing some mind trick on me, or J.J. Barea may actually be an NBA player.

Barea, all 5-foot-10ish, made slithery drive after squirrely shot en route to a 16-point third, climaxed by a double-take, up-and-under, left-handed reverse layup that brought the crowd to its feet and the Atlanta Hawks to their knees.

For a long stretch of a competitve game against a winning team, he was the best player on the court.

As Barea stepped to the free-throw line early in the fourth, AAC erupted in the most unlikely chant in the history of the Mavericks:

"MVP! MVP! MVP!"

Dirk Nowitzki won his second NBA Western Conference Player of the Week in three weeks yesterday for helping Dallas to nine wins in their last 10 entering tonight's doozy against the San Antonio Spurs. But it's Barea - still difficult to type this - who has been the shockingly successful sparkplug.

"I'm always a believer that anything is possible," says Mavs coach Rick Carlisle. "Would I have predicted it? No. Am I shocked? Absolutely not."

Well, I am. And I suspect the long line forms right behind me.

Right? - Richie Whitt


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