The Pelican Blog

Holiday grateful to be headed to New Orleans

By: Jim Eichenhofer,, @Jim_Eichenhofer

LAS VEGAS – Ninety seconds. As Jrue Holiday tells it, a minute and a half was all he needed to get over the initial shock and disappointment of finding out that he’d been traded for the first time, by the only NBA team he’d ever known. Holiday was watching the NBA draft on June 27 with friends when he learned that Philadelphia had dealt him to New Orleans. As the unexpected news started to sink in, one of Holiday’s buddies started listing some of the notable names on the Pelicans’ roster.

USA Basketball“My best friend was like, ‘Hey, you’re playing with Eric Gordon,’ ” Holiday remembered this week in Las Vegas. “I was like, ‘Oh snap.’ And then he said, ‘And you know you’re going to have Anthony Davis, right?’ I was like, ‘Oh snap’ again. Then he just started naming off dudes, like Ryan Anderson. Then (in July) we brought in Tyreke (Evans).”

Numerous national articles from USA Basketball’s minicamp this week have detailed Holiday’s evident enthusiasm for becoming a New Orleans Pelican. There are at least two very good reasons behind the non-stop reports: 1) Just about every NBA media outlet has approached Holiday to get his thoughts on changing teams and 2) the 23-year-old point guard has been a veritable human New Orleans Pelicans billboard, advertising in glowing terms his opinion of the team’s roster. Holiday, a California native often described as having an upbeat personality, has had something positive to say about countless members of his new team.

For instance, here’s Holiday on shooting guard Eric Gordon: “I think he should’ve made the Olympic team last year. I was on the (USA) Select team last year practicing against him. He was the toughest opponent to go up against. I already expressed to him how excited I was to play with him.”

On reserve center/forward Jason Smith, a friend and former teammate in 2009-10 with the 76ers: “That’s my man.”

On swingman Tyreke Evans: “I’ve been playing against Tyreke since I was 15 or 16. I love how tough he is, how big of a body he is and the way he can get to the rack, get into the paint and make plays. I’m really excited to play with him.”

On second-year guard Austin Rivers: “I played against him one time last year. The other time he was hurt. Obviously he’s young, very confident and has a very good game. He’s been around the NBA his whole life.”

Following each of USA Basketball’s three practice days, the 6-foot-4, 205-pounder has explained to mostly unfamiliar media members why he believes the Pelicans will be a dangerous team in 2013-14. As the point guard and leader of the team’s attack, he’s excited about the firepower he sees in the team’s lineup. He’s often predicted that he’ll be able to increase his assists average from last season of 8.0 per game.

“I think we have a really, really, really good team,” he said. “We have a lot of playmakers, slashers and shooters. I feel like everybody’s going to be happy.”

Sticking with the positivity he’s displayed all week, Holiday even has complimentary words for the man who traded him, Philadelphia general manager Sam Hinkie. Hired in May and therefore with no previous connection to Holiday, Hinkie could’ve shipped the UCLA product to any of the other 29 NBA teams. Holiday is grateful that his destination is the Crescent City.

“I love Philly – when I was there, they treated me well,” Holiday said. “That initial hit (of being traded), I was like ‘Dang.’ Because I grew up in Philly, and my career grew up in Philly. I loved the fans, and the fans loved me. My teammates there, I had grown so close to them. But the team that I’m going to, I see (the trade) as a blessing in disguise. I think Sam Hinkie really looked out for me.”