BOSTON – Although Jrue Holiday was unable to participate in Monday’s Media Day festivities, his arrival to Boston was still the hottest topic of the day among his new Celtics peers.
As Holiday went through the process of his physical examination at Auerbach Center, the rest of the team was peppered with questions about their newest teammate, and their level of excitement was through the roof.
Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens was first up to the podium, where he explained the thought process behind pulling the trigger on the blockbuster trade, which went down less than 24 hours prior. On Sunday, the C’s acquired Holiday from the Portland Trail Blazers, who had just landed Holiday from the Milwaukee Bucks four days earlier in the Damian Lillard trade. Boston had to pay a hefty price, as it had to part ways with Malcolm Brogdon, Rob Williams, and two future first-round draft picks, but it was one that Stevens was willing to pay.
“There’s a list of guys in the league that you always think you’ll never have a real chance to get that you think are perfect fits and that you’d love to be a Celtic, and Jrue is one of those guys,” Stevens explained. “Everybody can see what he does on the court and he’s a really good player, multiple-time All-Star, the defense has been well-documented, et cetera. But I think it’s just, that he’s an elite teammate, an elite competitive character, all of those things … You knew the price was going to be really high, but he’s a guy that we think is a great fit for us, and does so many good things on and off the court for us.”
Head coach Joe Mazzulla is going to have a lot of fun fitting Holiday into Boston’s rotations. The 6-foot-5 point guard averaged 19.3 points, 7.4 assists, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.1 steals per game last season with the Milwaukee Bucks and will give the C’s yet another talented scorer and facilitator whom they can rely upon.
However, even more important in Mazzulla’s eyes is the type of personality that will be entering the locker room. Holiday is one of the most revered teammates in the NBA – he’s won the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award in three of the last four seasons – and he understands how to bring the best out of his peers.
“Any time you can add character, I think it's a win,” said Mazzulla. “We have that in our building, we've had that in our building, and then we've now added that into our building.”
Some players see this as a match that is just too good to be true. Al Horford, for instance, has played across from Holiday for the entirety of Holiday’s 14-year career, and always saw him as the ideal locker-room addition.
“Having the opportunity to play with Jrue, somebody that I respect so much and look from afar with admiration, just the type of player he is, the type of person he is; he’s about the right things and winning and competing,” said Horford on the eve of his 17th NBA training camp. “I’m really excited about that and developing that relationship and chemistry with him and moving forward with it. He’s somebody that I just would never have imagined to be playing next to. But now that he’s here, I’m excited.”
Jayson Tatum has already experienced the honor of teaming up with Holiday. In the Summer of 2021, they both donned Red, White, and Blue uniforms and took home a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
Now Tatum hopes to share that championship experience with Holiday at the NBA level, a feat that Holiday has already accomplished. Just weeks prior to teaming up with Tatum and the rest of the United States squad, Holiday had won a title with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Prior to Holiday’s arrival, Boston didn’t have a single player with championship experience on its roster. Now, they have a title-winner whose knowledge can be tapped into.
“We certainly can learn a lot from Jrue, being on a team that won a championship and they had to face a lot of adversity,” Tatum said. “I remember Giannis (Antetokounmpo) got hurt in the playoffs and they were down 0-2 in the Finals and came back and won. There is a lot we can learn from Jrue. On the court, the stuff they had to overcome and off the court. I'm looking forward to having him on this team, what he brings as a player and as a person.”
Holiday’s new backcourt mate Derrick White agreed in that aspect, saying Holiday’s experience can help give the C’s an extra edge.
“Having someone that has been on that stage and has won on that stage, that’s something that you can’t really replace or replicate,” said White. “Having him on our team now is going to be good and he’s going to just help us each and every day. He understands what it takes to get over that hump, and that’s what we keep talking about.”
It’s also nice knowing that the C’s won’t have to face Holiday again, considering how he’s been a nightmare for them on both ends in the past. Jaylen Brown understands that relief as much as anyone after battling Holiday one-on-one numerous times over the years in Celtics-Bucks showdowns.
“A tremendous amount of respect for Jrue from somebody who he's guarded, and I've had to guard,” raved Brown. “It’s just, he plays with a certain force that you could just feel. He's just, he's a super solid man, and just as a competitor, he's an assassin. So, to be playing alongside him, I think it'll be a tremendous honor.”