J.J. Barea wants to stay with Mavs

Updated: June 15, 2011, 8:56 AM ET
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com

DALLAS -- Dallas Mavericks president Donnie Nelson said Tuesday the plan is to keep the boys together and make a run at a repeat.

Dallas has six unrestricted free-agents-to-be come July 1, including top priorities starting center Tyson Chandler, backup point guard J.J. Barea and rehabbing small forward Caron Butler.

Barea, who greatly increased his free-agent stock with a tremendous postseason run that included starting the final three games of the NBA Finals, could be forced to choose between signing a more lucrative contract elsewhere or settling for less to return to Dallas for a sixth season.

"That's a good problem to have," Barea said. "That's a problem I wanted this summer."

He was also the most outspoken of the group regarding his desire to remain with the Mavericks.

"It's a business, but I love Puerto Rico and then I love Dallas," Barea said. "This city is real special to me, so hopefully (owner) Mark (Cuban) and Donnie and myself, my family will do everything we can to stay here in Dallas."

Whether it will be possible to keep the 2010-11 NBA champions intact will depend heavily on the parameters of a new collective bargaining agreement. However, the two negotiating sides remain at odds and the league appears headed toward a July 1 lockout, which would halt the free-agency period until a deal is in place.

Teams can negotiate with player-agents prior to the expiration of the current CBA at 11 p.m. CST on June 30. The potential for deals to be brokered are slim-to-none because there is no working knowledge of what form the new salary structure will take.

"In an ideal world, this team, we keep it intact and we make another run," Nelson said. "But, you know, this is a great opportunity for everyone, whether you're management, agents, players, you just want to enjoy the moment and none of us know what the market is going to be like, so it's just we're in a holding pattern."

The Mavs' other free agents are DeShawn Stevenson, Brian Cardinal and Peja Stojakovic. The latter two said they have no plans to retire and would like to re-sign with Dallas.

"They're all part of the family. We'd like to get the crew (back)," Nelson said. "That being said, there's other teams out there, too, and we don't know whether their agents are going to field offers -- that's what agents are paid to do -- so it's a process we go through every summer and we end up figuring something out."

Chandler, the fiery defensive anchor and emotional leader in his first season with the Mavs, is top priority. The 7-foot-1 center provided Dallas with an athletic, defensive-minded big man for the first time in Dirk Nowitzki's 13 seasons.

He will be a highly sought-after free agent and will command a hefty salary.

"Tyson Chandler changed our season on a lot of levels," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "It wasn't just his play. It was his enthusiasm, his energy. He just brought a certain exuberance to our locker room and he was always a guy who was talking about accountability. He was talking about it, preaching it and it got other guys in the locker room on board with keeping each other accountable.

"Because, if you don't have a team that polices itself, you can't win an NBA championship."

Chandler averaged a near-double-double with 10.1 points and 9.4 rebounds, while earning NBA All-Defensive second team honors and finishing third in voting for the league's Defensive Player of the Year.

Chandler said it would be nice to work out a new deal with Dallas before he becomes a free agent, but he said he's leaving that up to his agent Jeff Schwartz, Nelson and Cuban.

"I'm just trying to enjoy this high right now, this celebration," said Chandler, who planned to take the party Tuesday afternoon to a slip-n-slide on his front yard. "If I get focused on that stuff I can't enjoy it. I told them I don't want to know, I don't want to hear nothing. You guys hash it out and let me enjoy my moment."

Butler and Stevenson did not address the media on Tuesday. Butler has said that he believes he will re-sign with the Mavs. Carlisle reiterated how inspirational Butler was to the team throughout his rehab after undergoing surgery for a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee. He suffered the injury on Jan. 1 and missed the rest of the season.

Stevenson played a key role throughout the playoffs as a defender and 3-point shooter. He and Stojakovic might face the longest odds of returning because of potential logjams at those positions.

The blue-collar Cardinal joined the Mavs on a make-good contract during training camp. He became a fan favorite because of his bruising style, and that only heightened with his effective stints during the NBA Finals when Carlisle moved away from Stojakovic, who lost the touch on his 3-point shot and was a defensive liability against the Miami Heat's superstar wing players.

Nowitzki also became a big fan of Cardinal's, which can only help his campaign to come back next season.

Clearly, Chandler, who shares an agent with point guard Jason Kidd, and Barea, who shares agent Dan Fegan with Jason Terry and Shawn Marion, are most crucial. Kidd has one year left on his contract and with Rodrigue Beaubois' progress slowed this season, Dallas has no other point guard ready to assume the backup role.

"I'm not going to lie, I like my role. I like the role I have on this team, bringing energy from the bench, starting and bringing energy early in the game," Barea said. "But, yeah, I would like someday to be a starter, but the situation I got here in Dallas and with the coach that I have and the teammates I have, I don't want to change it so hopefully I'll be here again next year."

Jeff Caplan covers the Mavs for ESPNDallas.com.