Jrue Holiday foresees assists rising in New Orleans
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
How popular was Jrue Holiday among fans of his previous NBA team? The 2013 Eastern Conference All-Star point guard achieved a rarity in Philadelphia, playing four seasons there without being subjected to the signature sound of the fan base.
“I don’t really ever remember a distinct boo,” a smiling Holiday said, when asked how often he received vocal criticism from the City of Brotherly Love’s notorious supporters. “I guess I just played hard all the time. I always tried to win. Philly saw that.”
Holiday should find the atmosphere in the New Orleans Arena to be even more hospitable, but his arrival in the Western Conference will be less so on the court, given the number of elite players at his position. For example, during the first month of the regular season, Holiday will go head-to-head with point guards Mike Conley, Steve Nash (twice), Tony Parker and Stephen Curry. That list doesn’t even include December matchups with the likes of Russell Westbrook, Ty Lawson, Chris Paul and Damian Lillard.
“There are so many great scorers in the West, and so many great point guards,” Holiday said.
Nonetheless, one of Holiday’s objectives is to make a second straight All-Star appearance and be on the floor Feb. 16, when New Orleans hosts the 2014 edition of the event.
“Hopefully (it will be) another All-Star season, with wins and playoffs,” said Holiday, who appeared in the postseason with the 76ers in 2011 and 2012. “This is something new here. I’m really excited to be a part of it.”
For the UCLA product to receive All-Star consideration in his new conference, the Pelicans will need to be among the league’s most improved teams in the win column, after going 27-55 last season. Holiday is at the forefront of New Orleans’ push to contend for the playoffs, as its most accomplished player. Holiday and Ryan Anderson are the only current Pelicans who have started a postseason game. Though the club is relatively inexperienced, Holiday is eager to see what New Orleans can accomplish with its stable of young talent.
“I think we’ve got a lot of firepower, a lot of young guys who have proven themselves in other places and have come here to join together,” he said. “We’ll grow together. You see teams like the Spurs who have been together for a long time. I feel like that’s how we’ll be. We have a good core group of guys who are really young. All of our contracts just got done, so we at least have three years together.
“I know a lot of guys here haven’t made the playoffs, and I have. That experience is something that no one can take from you, so I’d like to get back there.”
The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder averaged 17.7 points and 8.0 assists during his 2012-13 All-Star campaign with Philadelphia, the only player to finish in the top five of the NBA’s assist rankings while also leading his team in scoring. He sounds like he’d be content to see his assist tallies spike with New Orleans, while potentially accepting reduced scoring responsibility in more of a pass-first role. He believes the Pelicans’ success could be dependent on making sure all of the talent on the roster is maximized.
“I’ll do anything the team needs,” Holiday said. “In Philly, I had to be a scorer for us to have a chance to win. Here, you have Anthony (Davis), Ryan, Tyreke (Evans), Eric (Gordon), Austin (Rivers). You have so many guys who can score in so many different ways. I’ll pass the ball and get out of the way if I need to.
“If guys run the lanes, I’m going to get it to them. (When) Anthony’s getting lobs, Ryan’s getting threes, Tyreke and Eric are getting to the basket and the free-throw line, we have a lot of threats, a lot of ammo. People have to be ready for us. When everybody’s happy, I feel like that’s when we’ll be at our best.”