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Mavs' J.J. Barea Flies Home After Storm, Finds 'The Worst Thing To Happen To Puerto Rico'

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea watched in horror as Hurricane Maria tore through his home island of Puerto Rico. He had to do something.

So in the middle of training camp, he texted Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, borrowed the team plane, loaded it with supplies and took it to Puerto Rico. Barea brought back 17 people, including his mother and grandmother. 

Interview Highlights

What he saw when he looked out the plane window: "Oh, man, it doesn't look anything like Puerto Rico. The water's ugly. There's not enough sand. The green is gone...The only traffic is people all in line to go get gas. It's not good, man. It's the worst thing that could ever happen to an island or to Puerto Rico."

How Barea convinced Cuban to let him take the team plane: "I'm lucky. I've got a family in Dallas with the Dallas Mavericks. I love this town. I've got a great relationship with Mark...I sent him a text just saying, 'Hey, what do you think about taking the team plane to Puerto Rico full of stuff?' And he texted me back a couple minutes later and said, 'Check your email.' ...And after 100 emails, we were ready to go."

His experience with Hurricane Georges in 9th grade: "It went straight through my town. I was young. I remember being in my room. I thought the windows were going to fly off. It was an overnighter, so it was six, seven hours of the loudest noise...We didn't have water or electricity for three weeks to four weeks. That was 20 years ago, and now this is even worse."

Barea and his wife, Viviana Ortiz, are sponsoring an online fund drive to help storm victims in Puerto Rico. They've raised more than $150,000 so far.

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.
Gus Contreras is a digital producer and reporter at KERA News. Gus produces the local All Things Considered segment and reports on a variety of topics from, sports to immigration. He was an intern and production assistant for All Things Considered in Washington D.C.