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J.J. Barea, the smallest Maverick, is living large in the NBA Playoffs

The Puerto Rican point guard who grew up worshipping Jason Kidd and Steve Nash is playing with one and imitating the other against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
By JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, Published: May 18, 2011

Man, this kid really is on a roll, and will try to continue that roll in Game 2 on Thursday at 8 p.m. inside American Airlines Center.

Barea averaged 11.5 points and 5.5 assists against the Lakers. He is listed at 6-foot in the team media guide, which is a flat-out lie.

Asked how tall Barea actually is, teammate Jason Terry smiled and said, "Uh, midget." Yet, Barea seems most comfortable driving amongst the trees.

"I love it," Barea admitted. "That's what I live for, man. I enjoy every second of it."

Barea took advantage of the Thunder when it went with a smaller lineup.

"When they went small, I knew they only had one big guy," Barea said. "If I get by that big guy, I'm clear to the rim, so I don't have to deal with anything like Portland with (Marcus) Camby and them. So I just enjoy it."

Terry said he initially underestimated Barea. "If you look at him, he's not the first guy you'll pick up at an open run or at a park. Maybe (opponents) underestimate him, but he's not flying under the radar anymore."

Barea certainly is on his coach's radar.

"He's a resourceful player," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "He's been told he's too small. Undrafted. Not enough this, too much that, but he's an important guy for us."

Barea in his fifth season out of Northeastern University in Boston. He signed as a free agent with Dallas in 2006, which leads to the next bit of good news: This is the last year of Barea's contract, which pays $1.815 million.

Livin' large figures to get much larger.

John Rohde: 475-3099. John Rohde can be heard Monday-Friday from 6-7 p.m. on The Sports Animal Network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.