Morning Shootaround -- Oct. 3

NBA.com Staff

Knicks’ Holiday an involved uncle | Fourth team’s a charm for Young?| Thunder’s last Seattle alum soldiers on| Yao returns, savors memories

No. 1: Knicks’ Holiday an involved uncle — It might not take a whole village, regardless of what politicians say, to raise a child. But it can take more than just Mom and Dad, especially when Mom is facing brain surgery and Dad is understandably devoted to and worried about her. That’s where extended family – in this case, Justin Holiday, uncle to brother Jrue Holiday‘s and wife Lauren‘s newborn baby girl. New York’s preseason grind is demanding, but it’s not 24/7 the way an infant can be, as Marc Berman of the New York Post reports:

Justin Holiday, the Knicks’ new shooting guard, spent late nights at West Point FaceTiming with a newborn baby girl.

It was not his baby, but his first niece — the daughter of brother Jrue Holiday, the New Orleans Pelicans point guard. The birth became national news because Holiday’s wife, Lauren, a former soccer star for the U.S. national team, was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Lauren couldn’t have brain surgery until after the baby’s birth, and she is now slated to be operated on in five weeks. Jrue has taken a leave of absence from the Pelicans to care for the newborn

Justin Holiday, obtained from the Bulls in the Derrick Rose trade, is 14 months older than Jrue.

“He gets the night shift a lot so I’ve been FaceTiming, seeing the baby’s face changing,’’ Justin told The Post. “These days you have to have FaceTime. It’s like looking at my brother as a baby. The resemblance is amazing.’’

Justin is close with the former Lauren Cheney, who won two Olympic gold medals with Team USA.

“Even if she wasn’t my brother’s wife, it’d be a tough thing to hear,’’ Holiday said about learning of her diagnosis. “It’s family — a touchy situation. She’s a tough girl and been through a lot already. I’m very confident she’ll get through this as well.’’

No one knows when Jrue will return to the Pelicans. The baby is 12 days old.

“His main focus is to be there to support his wife, take care of his child,’’ Justin said. “I don’t think basketball is coming across his mind right now. It’s not his main focus and shouldn’t be. I also think his team and everybody else supports his decision to do this, which has been a good thing. People were nagging him about it, but everybody’s been supportive. He’s handling his business as a father and husband.’’


No. 2: Fourth team’s a charm for Young? — Thaddeus Young spent the first nine seasons of his NBA career on teams that could best be described as mediocre – or worse. As a result, while he earned respect among the game’s insiders as a versatile and valuable forward, his profile was limited thanks to his stints with the 76ers, Timberwolves and Nets. Now that he’s with the Indiana Pacers, a team expected by many to vie for a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket, Young might win over some fans who didn’t previously pay attention, as Joel Brigham writes for Basketball Insiders:

Young is remembering what it feels like to play for a team that legitimately has a chance to be good, and he couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to once again experience success. He hasn’t been on a .500 team since the lockout-shortened 2011–12 campaign, but that could very well change now that he’s the starting four on an Indiana Pacers team that nearly all pundits agree made massive improvements over the summer.

“It feels great to say that we can be a good team and mean it, but it’s all on paper right now,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “We can be very, very good.”

Optimism has been hard to come by for Young, as each of his last three seasons have been with teams that sat near the very bottom of the standings. Between Philadelphia, Minnesota and Brooklyn, Young floundered in a trio of NBA purgatories. This would be a difficult stretch for any player, but it was particularly tough for a veteran like Young who had made the playoffs in four of his first five seasons in the league.

“It was frustrating,” Young admitted. “That Minnesota situation was just a down situation for me because, at the time, I was dealing with a lot of family issues. My mom had just passed away, and I was just trying to figure things out after that.”

It was November of 2014 when Young’s mother, Lula Hall, succumbed to cancer after a lengthy battle with the disease. Young was devastated and spent over a week away from the team, missing five regular season games as he grieved. He lost his mother just a few weeks into the season, and then the campaign was filled with challenges and losses as well. Minnesota would finish with a 16-66 record that season. Young was traded to the Nets in February in the deal that brought Kevin Garnett back to the Wolves, and he hoped the change of scenery would be good for him.

“I got to Brooklyn and tried to change things,” Young said. “I tried to have some fun and get back to myself, you know?”

But that also proved fruitless, as the Nets lost 61 games. Young scored 15.1 points per game, hauled in a career-high nine rebounds per game and took full advantage of the busy and entertaining life New York City can provide a 27-year-old man.

Despite all that, he was back on a losing team and, as far as he knew, he was going to be back for another season with an even more questionable collection of talent.

“Initially when the summer had started, I was told by Brooklyn that they were looking toward the future and that it was going to take some time, and I was going to be around for it,” Young said. “Then, all of a sudden you’re hearing that you’re being shopped.”

Shortly after, Young got the call confirming that his frustrating (and short) tenure in Brooklyn was coming to an end.

“I was working out and my agent called me like six times until I was like, ‘Who the hell is calling me?’” Young remembers with a chuckle. “My trainer told me it was Jim Tanner, my agent, so I knew I needed to answer it. I really knew I needed to answer it because clearly something was going down. So I called him back and said, ‘Look, you’ve called me five times in five minutes. What is going on?’ He told me the move was going to happen, so I asked him where I was going. He said ‘Indiana.’ My first reaction was, ‘Okay. That’s cool, that’s cool.’ Some teams you don’t want to go, but Indiana, I was fine with that.”


No. 3: Thunder’s last Seattle alum soldiers on— Oklahoma City forward Nick Collison answered questions in a wide-ranging interview with hoopshype.com, touching on Kevin Durant‘s departure, the reasons he spends his summers in Seattle, his thoughts on the NBA’s newly retired stars and hearing the knock-knock of Father Time himself. Here are a few snippets:

No more Kevin Durant as a teammate. How did you learn about his decision?

NC: He texted me… Well, first I heard that he was leaning that way and then he texted me that morning before he announced his decision.

How did you feel?

NC: I was disappointed, for sure. We played together for a long time, we came a long way from where we started. So yeah, it’s disappointing. It’s always tough when teammates leave, that’s the way the business works. It was a different thing with Kevin because of how much time we spent together, and obviously because of the great player he is.

Victor Oladipo is clearly one of the key players to help fill Durant’s void.

NC: Yeah, he is a player who can create his own shot. Kevin was a big part of our offense, and Victor is a guy who can play with the ball, create opportunities for himself, get in the paint, create for other guys… So he’ll be very important for our season.

Three legends retired this season: Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett… Which one will you miss the most this year?

NC: Probably Duncan, you know because I played against him a lot more than the other two. I played playoff series against him. Actually when I was in college I practiced on the USA Team that he was on, so I got to know him better. It was back in 2004. He was always very friendly with me during that time. But you know, all of them will be missed a lot. I played against Garnett a lot too. Played less against Kobe. These guys… It’s not easy to do what they did, to play at such a high level for so long. Incredible careers. It’s been cool to compete against them all these years, guys that I actually admired before I started playing in the NBA.

Well, you’ll be 36 at the end of the month… Have you thought about being close to the end of your career?

NC: I’m just enjoying this year. As you do get closer to the end, I start to like appreciate just being on a team, more hanging out with the guys. I enjoy playing with this group. I’m just trying to really enjoy the year because I don’t know how much longer it’s going to last. It’s a fun group, I’m trying to stay healthy, ready to go when I get opportunities.

You still have ties with the city of Seattle, right?

NC: I go back every summer since we left.

What is the feeling right now in the city about having an NBA team again?

NC: I feel for those fans. It’s tough for them. They loved the Sonics and there’s no team now. I don’t know what’s going to happen but it would be great to have a team again in Seattle. I know that there’s a lot of dominoes that would have to fall for that to happen. I played there, they do have a real passion for basketball.


No. 4: Yao returns, savors memories — Yao Ming, at age 36, conceivably could still be playing for the Houston Rockets. But the 7-foot-6 center already has qualified for and been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, as well as transitioned into management as owner of the Shanghai Sharks. It was the Sharks’ game against his old team that brought Yao back to Houston and had him feeling so nostalgic over the weekend, as our man Fran Blinebury writes:

One thought keeps running through Yao Ming’s mind every time he thinks of the Rockets retiring his jersey.

“It just happened too soon,” Yao said.

Yao was back at a podium at Toyota Center for first time since his premature retirement in 2011 due to a debilitating series of foot injuries.

The No. 1 pick in the 2002 draft played just seven full seasons of the nine he was with the Rockets, averaging 19 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocked and was voted to the All-Star team eight times.

Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September, the 7-6 center will have his No. 11 jersey officially retired by the Rockets on Feb. 2 during halftime of the game vs. Atlanta.

“It’s something I couldn’t have dreamed of,” Yao said. “I appreciate everything Houston did for me, the opportunity to come over here and play. Honestly from my first day to my last day I cannot think to make it any different.”

The Rockets have previously retired the numbers of Calvin Murphy (23), Rudy Tomjanovich(45), Hakeem Olajuwon (34), Clyde Drexler (22) and Moses Malone (24). They also have a banner honoring former assistant coach and general manager Carroll Dawson hanging from the rafters.

“I said it before, but so many nights when I walked through that court or play on that court that I look up to those jerseys and know that those jerseys are spirit of the team of Houston,” Yao said. “Those jersey are honored and those jerseys are motivation …I would be honored to continue with them. I hope my career here is something that meets the expectation of basketball fans.”

Yao, 36, returned to Houston as owner of the Shanghai Sharks, the first team from the Chinese Basketball Association to play a game against an NBA team in the United States.

“I said to (Rockets general manager) Daryl (Morey) that maybe coach (Mike) D’Antoni could use four players against us,” said Yao. “Obviously the NBA represents the best basketball in the world. We are very fortunate to be here. It is a test for us to see the measurement.

“For players to walk into stadium and play in front over over 10,000 fans, that is a different experience. Hopefully that gives them a big thrill. I remember my first time I walk into NBA stadium. It is not always comfortable to play at the next level.

“Feel the air. I remember the air that day when running into the stadium first time playing for the Rockets. There was something that has really stayed a long time in my memory.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Kings will have to adapt to Darren Collison‘s absence while the point guard serves the eight-game suspension handed down by the NBA Sunday. … Pat Riley, old-school president of the Miami Heat, accepts that teams can’t squash their players’ social media proclivities and merely must try to contain them. … Derrick Rose‘s looming rape cases (one civil lawsuit, one criminal probe) and Joakim Noah‘s snub of training-camp host West Point were not what Knicks fans expected from the former Chicago Bulls, writes one New York beat writer. … Nikola Mirotic has the talent. What the Bullswant to see from him in his third season is the consistency. … With the kids of Akron in mind, LeBron James has made up his mind which POTUS candidate he’ll vote for in November. … The Clippers, in conjunction with the National Basketball Players Association, made their facility available to a bunch of former NBA players for health screenings. … Eager for more perimeter scoring, the Milwaukee Bucks will probably face a flood of trade rumors to confirm, deny or ignore, including one that would bring in Charlotte’s Jeremy Lamb and Spencer Hawes for center Greg Monroe. … Locker-room real estate is making news in Portland …