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Q&A: Jrue Holiday shares his surprise at All-Star nod, thoughts on the Bucks & more

Milwaukee's 2-way guard talks about playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo, 'Black Wall Street the Board Game' and more.

Bucks guard Jrue Holiday is headed back to the All-Star Game for the 1st time in 10 years.

One of the NBA’s most respected two-way players maintained relative apathy on whether he would make his second NBA All-Star game, or extend his nine-year absence.

Instead of tuning into TNT when it announced the NBA’s All-Star reserves, Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday initially watched the latest “Minions” movie with his kids. After his wife, Lauren, prodded him, Holiday switched to TNT only to hear his name called.

“I was, for sure, surprised,” Holiday told “But it was a good surprise.”

After all, the Bucks (39-17) host the Boston Celtics (41-16) on Tuesday (7:30 ET, TNT) with the Eastern Conference’s second-best record partly because of Holiday’s dependable scoring (19.1 points per game), defense and leadership. Nonetheless, Holiday had not been an NBA All-Star since 2013 — during the last season of his four-season stint with the Philadelphia 76ers. Since then, Holiday has gained league-wide respect for his consistent two-way presence in New Orleans (2013-20) and Milwaukee (2020-present).

Holiday spoke to about his return to the NBA All-Star Game, playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton and what makes the Bucks’ trio so special.

Editor’s note: The following 1-on-1 interview has been edited and condensed.

Why were you surprised about making the NBA All-Star game?

I’m not here for the accolades. At the beginning of the season, my goal wasn’t to be an All-Star. It was to get in a groove, be on a good team and get myself prepared for the season to win the best we can. But it’s cool to see other coaches and players recognize your talent and all the hard work you put in because I know they go through the same thing. It’s an honor.

There are only seven reserve spots, and coaches always agonize which players they select at the expense of others. But how did it land with you that this will be only your second All-Star appearance and your first since 2013?

Honestly, I just care about working hard and making my stamp in the league. I feel like coming to Milwaukee was one of the best things that happened to me in my career. Obviously, we won a championship (in 2021). Then I went to Japan and won a gold medal (at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics). But this organization, my teammates — Giannis and Khris being the pillars of our team — playing with them has been really fun. Being here has been a joy. I’ve been glad to be here.

Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday is making his 2nd career All-Star appearance this season.

Giannis said he told you that now you can’t rest during All-Star weeken–

He wasn’t joking [laughing]. That’s one thing I love – my vacation and my break. It gives you time to mentally get away to prepare for the second half of the season.

What did you do during previous All-Star weekends to recharge?

Just go on vacation with my family. I literally would take a break from basketball. There are times you can have too much of something. If you have too much of it, you can get burnt out. That’s something I try not to do. Usually during All-Star break, I tried to mentally get away.

How do you adjust now that you will be at All-Star weekend?

I’ll still hang out with my family – my wife, kids and parents will be there. I’ll try to hang out with them as much as I can.

Back to what you were saying about playing with Giannis and Khris. Beyond the obvious winning, what else have you enjoyed about playing with them?

We have a lot of similarities and have a lot of things in common. It’s not just on the court. It’s off the court. A lot of our families are the same age. This team is really, really close. That’s a good thing when you can get along off the court. I feel like it does help on the court. I know that you can win, even if you don’t care for the person off the court. But I think it makes it sweeter when you actually care for that person off the court. You have a family atmosphere.

What stuff have you guys done to get closer off the court?

We’ve done events together. Our kids get together with swim classes and music classes. We’ve done Halloween and Easter together. It’s me, Giannis, Khris, Joe (Ingles), Wes (Matthews). Everybody is pretty close on this team. It’s been fun. They all came to my house when we were in L.A. It was a good time. We chilled and had some tacos.

How has your chemistry with Giannis and Khris evolved, and what have been the main turning points that fostered that growth?

We’ve been able to go through the ups-and-downs together. Anytime there is a situation where you’re down and in a slump, there are only two ways you can go. You can go down or you can build from it. We’ve gotten better.

Jrue Holiday had 1 of his best games of 2022-23 on Jan. 16 vs. Atlanta.

Given all of that, would you consider yourselves the NBA’s best trio?

I don’t know if we’re the best trio in the league, but I feel like we’re the best trio for us. We’ve won together. We’ve been able to go through ups and downs together with Khris being hurt, Giannis being hurt or losing in the Eastern Conference semifinals (last season to Boston). Being able to have each other’s backs is something we’ve always done since I’ve gotten here. I was the last one to add to the trio. We have a great relationship between all three of us.

Coach Budenholzer said Giannis has grown this season as a leader. What have you seen?

He always stays positive. He’s always about consistency. He’s always about good habits. Because of those good habits, he’s built a foundation with what we want to do. There’s also a foundation of him with the habits he builds. That’s the reason why he keeps getting better and better every year.

How do you compare Giannis’ season to his previous ones?

Giannis is just being Giannis. He’s always been like that with us.

Bud also said that you’ve been very helpful this season with staying positive with the group through the ups-and-downs. How do you do that?

I’ve been through a lot with my family. I’ve been through a lot with  basketball. But through my faith, I feel like I’ve still succeeded. My wife had a brain tumor, while she was pregnant. I had been injured and had a rod in my leg (with New Orleans in 2019). I didn’t know if I’d come back and play the same. I signed a four-year deal with Philly (in 2013), and they traded me the same offseason. I’ve been through a lot.

We have a lot of teammates who are really good. Because of me, Khris and Giannis, they don’t get to show their full package. But when one person goes out, other people get to show a little bit more.”

— Jrue Holiday, on Milwaukee’s depth

When all of those tough incidents happened, in what ways did your faith help you stay resilient?

Honestly, I do my best to communicate with my family. I communicate when I’m hurting. They do the same thing with me. There are times we can share sorrows and hurts. You help each other through that. At the same time, I believe in a God that loves me and gave me a second chance at life. He’s always going to love me through my sins and wrongdoings. I definitely have faith.

Given your leadership role on the team, to what extent do you give teammates guidance and perspective?

If it’s asked, for sure. That’s a part of being with a team – sharing your experiences and hoping somebody doesn’t go through the same experiences as you necessarily if they can avoid it. If I can give information, I love to do it. It just happens in conversation. If somebody wants to share with me, I’ll be vulnerable and open with them. They’re my teammates, so that’s what I’m here for. But the other things on the court, I try to share by example.

What role did you try to play with supporting Khris through his injury?

I feel like he’s able to handle that by himself. There are things we talk about. I tell him, ‘Just take your time, make sure you’re okay and don’t come back too fast.’ Just stuff like that. But for the most part, he’s been pretty good with that.

How did you try to manage things with mitigating Khris’ absence?

I didn’t try to manage anything. I was just playing. Maybe there was a need for me to score more, be more aggressive or make a play for somebody else. I did what I could. But I was just playing basketball and relying on my instincts. I was having fun playing. It was difficult because I don’t do what Khris does. But I do something a little different. It’s not just me. We have a lot of teammates who are really good. Because of me, Khris and Giannis, they don’t get to show their full package. But when one person goes out, other people get to show a little bit more.

How would you compare your body of work this season compared to your first two seasons in Milwaukee?

Honestly, I think it’s similar with the way I play and the toughness I play with. I also try to get other people involved. Maybe it was heightened this year when Khris was out. I carried more of a load. But I tried to stay pretty consistent.

Over the years, plenty of coaches and players have touted you as one of the league’s best defenders–

[Interrupts] That’s a challenge I’ve always taken and always love to do. I want to take on that challenge with defending the best players in the world.

After the Bucks add Jae Crowder in a 4-team deal, could he provide the same toughness PJ Tucker brought during the 2021 title run?

What is the key to take on that challenge?

A lot of it is offseason training and trying to get stronger. I go against guys that are bigger, stronger and quicker. I try to perfect it that way. I do a lot of lifting. I go against different type of players. That’s probably the same as everybody else with playing pickup a little bit and going against different guys. Everything is competitive. Everything is about getting better. There are times you can mentally engage. That’s just as good as being physically engaged.

How does that then translate into the games?

You don’t really get ready. You just have to have it. You have to know personnel. You have to know what guys like to do. You have to have energy and be able to compete. You also have to know that nine times out of 10, the offensive player is going to get the benefit of the doubt. You have to be strong willed.

Giannis praised you for making key defensive stops in crunch time. What goes into that?

Instinct. Calculated chances. When you go through a game, you’re constantly knowing what your opponent is doing. At the end of the game, I know they can get a little tired or fatigued. So, I can go for a chance.

I read you and your wife did some charity work with the Bucks’ foundation to help local shelters. What were the details behind that, and the impact it made?

We provided bathrooms. We partnered with Kohler, which provided the whole tile and the appliances. It wasn’t just a woman’s shelter. There were other shelters. Sometimes you’re stressed out when you go to a shelter. A shower is a very important part to help. You can go there and relax and clear your mind. The Bucks donated, and then we ended up matching. That provides a comfortable life.

For people that are in shelters and the reasons why they’re in there, sometimes it’s for scary reasons. Doing something for shelters is something that was important to do. They’re able to get away, clear their minds and be mentally strong.  (The final donation among the Holidays, Bucks Foundation and Kohler was around $250,000 for upgrades at The Women’s Center, Hope House and Sojourner Family Peace Center).

How did the idea come up for you and your wife to give “Black Wall Street the Board Game” to every NBA team to hand out to their players?

We had one of our grantees make the board game. At first, I thought I’d get it for our whole team. But we decided to expand it. Even 10 years ago, I didn’t know much about “Black Wall Street.” But I know a couple of people from Tulsa, Oklahoma. They taught me about it. To be able to know Black history is something that’s good, and the board game is a fun way to learn it. From where I come from, we didn’t know much about money. We’re not the best at saving. We don’t know the alleyways to go and the opportunities that we have. We’re trying to provide as much information I can for people because of the position I’m in.

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Mark Medina is a senior writer/analyst for You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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