Sixers Want Holiday To Be "Quarterback"
When asked Wednesday morning how many assists he thought he might dish out in that evening's regular season opener against the Nuggets, point guard Jrue Holiday said he was gunning for 11 – to match the number that adorns his uniform. The four-year veteran made good on his word, dishing out exactly 11 in an 84-75 win over the Denver Nuggets.
It's no surprise. The former 17th-overall pick (2009) says he can feel the game beginning to slow, a luxury that comes with experience and often differentiates good players from great ones.
“In the preseason, I [noticed myself] getting a lot more comfortable handling the ball, running through plays, and seeing mismatches,” said Holiday last week. “Coach [Collins] trusts me [to make the correct reads] and call the right plays. Him showing that confidence means a lot to me.”
Indeed, head coach Doug Collins is pleased with Holiday’s development as a leader and floor general. Now, he wants his young pupil to make the leap from proficient to great.
“He has to be our quarterback,” said Coach Collins. “[I am looking to be] a coach who has a Peyton Manning or a Tom Brady, that guy who becomes an extension of you [on the court], getting guys in the right spots, making the right decisions, and playing with a joy you love to see. I think Jrue has all those capabilities."
It is those impressive aspects of Holiday's game that persuaded the Sixers to sign the 6-4 guard to a multi-year extension mere hours after a 14-point, 11-assist, and six-rebound performance Wednesday night.
"I've felt all along [that Jrue would be a foundation piece for our team]," said Collins Thursday. "Jrue [has] all the right things – size, speed, quickness. The one knock on him, was they didn't think he was going to be able to make shots, but he's shot the ball exceptionally well for us."
The 22-year-old has not merely impressed with his play on the court, as he's developing into a respected leader off of it, as well.
Once a quiet and doe-eyed rookie, Holiday now has over 200 starts under his belt and was recently named one of the team’s three captains for the upcoming season.
“His basketball IQ is amazing,” said fellow-captain Jason Richardson last week. “He can score at will, he’s smooth with the ball, [he plays great] defense, and he’s a willing passer.
“Give him three or four years, not even that, and he’ll be a top-five point guard.”
Coach Collins has expressed similar sentiment, and has already begun to give Holiday many of the responsibilities often reserved for much more experienced players.
"When Steve Nash was playing in Phoenix, he [had] that ball was in his hands [with everybody else] playing off of him. When Jrue's in the game, we would like to do the same thing," he said. "If I were to call something and Jrue were to call something different, his call would trump mine. He has the freedom to call an audible.
“I want him to feel like when he has that ball in his hands, there’s no place I’d rather it be.”
If Holiday can play to the level at which Collins believes he’s capable, Philly fans will certainly feel the same way when the ball finds itself in the young point guard's hands.
Posted: 5:27 PM, November 1, 2012