Friday, February 3, 2023 Feb 3, 2023
32° F Dallas, TX

A Q&A With the Mavs’ New Elder Statesman

You don't have to be tall to be a leader.
By |
J.J. Barea Portrait
Billy Surface

It’s been two years since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, killing almost 3,000 people and leaving more than 3 million without power. How is it there now?
Still a lot of work to do. My parents, everybody’s still there. It’s going to take a long time to—everything needs to get better. From the streets, from the buildings, from the houses, from the schools. Just everything. Politics. Everything has got to get better, and it’s going to be a long road, but I think people are ready to fight and they’re ready to keep moving.

You went back right away.
We got a plane there five days after the hurricane. It was one of the first planes to land in Puerto Rico. We were saying, “Hey, we got to do something.” And then we found out we already had a bunch of stuff we could take. We just didn’t have a way to get it there. My wife, Viviana, goes, “Hey, text Mark.” And I’m like, “Oh, I don’t know.” And she’s like, “Text him! That’s the only one we got!” I texted Mark and in less than five minutes, he’s like, “Check your email.” It was a go. I was talking to the pilots; I was talking to all the guys that I know from the team plane. We filled it up with everything we could, and then we brought it back full of people that needed to get out.

In January, you tore the Achilles tendon in your right ankle. How was the rehab from that?
I’m glad it happened later in my career. I know how to deal with it. I know how to work. But I’m lucky: I’ve got amazing staff here, from the trainers to the doctors to the weight room guys. It was my first summer that I stayed completely in Dallas. I usually go back to Puerto Rico. They took care of me, man. They took care of me from day one. It’s feeling good right now. I’m hooping.

You’re the last member of the championship team still here.
Still here and I’m just enjoying it, man. This is the time of my life. Just older now, and I got kids, family, and I have a great situation. I couldn’t be happier where I’m at. Puerto Rico will always be my home, but I’m planning on staying here forever, you know? I want to raise my kids in Dallas, and my wife loves it.

What’s it like, at 35, being sort of the elder statesman on the team now?
With Dirk gone, with Devin Harris not here, now I really feel it’s on me to keep the same example going. And I’ll even talk a little bit more. I am ready. I’m ready to talk and help call these guys out on sportsmanship.

Is that something you have been looking forward to?
I want to coach after. So this is going to really help me.

How long do you think you’ll keep at it?
Man, I still love it. I still can move. I still can play. I still can score the ball, and the game comes easier to me now. For sure one more, maybe three. I would love three more. So we’ll see.

It’s kind of an open secret that you are shorter than you are listed. Where did that come from?
I remember the first day. My mom and my dad said, “What?! You’re 6 feet tall now?” And I don’t get to 5-foot-11. I’m probably 5-foot-10-and-a-half on a good day. Yeah, so we joke around with it.

Hypothetically, if the Mavericks were to retire your jersey, would it be 5 or 11? You’ve worn both.
Oof. Tough question. I played more years with 5, but we won the championship with the number 11. Number 5 is my favorite number. I just couldn’t get it when I came here because Josh Howard already had it. But, yeah, hopefully either one. I don’t care.

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