DALLAS — While Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea helped to cool off the Heat with 8 points in Game 4, his relationship with the former Miss Universe is a hot topic — especially in his native Puerto Rico.
Now, even his parents are chiming in.
Barea is surrounded by love. His family is in town from Puerto Rico to cheer him on, and so is his girlfriend — Puerto Rican beauty queen Zuleyka Rivera, Miss Universe 2006.
"That's another hot topic right now... very hot, very hot," said Barea's mom, Marta Barea.
Part of my interview with J.J. last month made headlines in Puerto Rico when I asked him whether there are wedding bells in his future.
"Maybe; we'll see. Okay that's enough, that's enough with the questions," he said with a smile and a blush. "You heard it here first, Zuleyka."
During an interview with J.J.'s parents at his Dallas home this weekend, I asked them what their take is.
"This relationship is fairly new, and I think they are both very young," his mom said.
Barea, now 26, told me he met Zuleyka in Puerto Rico two weeks before Mavericks training camp last September. He started texting her immediately after, and they've been dating ever since.
"Zuleyka has a very big future ahead of her, and I think she's only 23, 24 years old," Marta Barea said. "I think you should fulfill yourself and then do whatever you think makes you happy."
And what makes these parents happy is that their son has remained humble and down-to-earth even at the height of his game.
"The way he behaves under the pressure and the circumstances... the way he has worked very hard... the way he still is with his friends and his family," said Jaime Barea, J.J.'s dad.
"I pray that he will keep in good health and that nobody hurts him seriously," his mom added.