Justin Holiday on Decision to Play in Orlando, Social Justice

July 7, 2020 - Pacers forward Justin Holiday discusses his decision to participate in the NBA season restart in Orlando and his recent essay in The Players' Tribune on using his platform to promote social justice.

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Justin Holiday on Decision to Play in Orlando, Social Justice

July 7, 2020 - Pacers forward Justin Holiday discusses his decision to participate in the NBA season restart in Orlando and his recent essay in The Players' Tribune on using his platform to promote social justice.
Jul 7, 2020  |  03:56

Justin Holiday Weighed All Options Before Committing to NBA Restart

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer

Justin Holiday had plenty of factors to weigh when deciding whether to go to Orlando for the resumption of the NBA season. Perhaps more than any of his Pacers teammates, in fact.

He has two daughters, aged two and three months, at home with his wife. He's loved being a stay-at-home dad during the pandemic lockdown, even potty training the oldest, and worries how she will react to him being gone for as long as three months.

There's also the not-so-minor detail of the threat of the coronavirus to all the participants in Orlando, and not wanting to bring it home to his family.

Despite the obligations he feels to his family, Holiday will play in Orlando for two primary reasons. It will enhance his platform to speak out against social injustice. And, he feels an obligation to the Pacers organization, his teammates and, yes, his status as a free agent after this season.

"I made a commitment to my team to be part of the team and give all I can to help us win," he said Tuesday during a Zoom call with media members. "It would be really hard for me not to go and play, because that's what I do.

"The cool thing is it will be a different challenge than we've all faced before. It will be dope to see how we answer to it and whether we'll be successful in it. I'm always positive so I think we'll be able to get rolling, especially when the playoffs hit."

Holiday should have a vital role in whether or not the Pacers get rolling in the playoffs, particularly in light of Victor Oladipo's decision not to play. Signed to a one-year contract last summer because of his defensive ability, the 31-year-old wing has become an unexpected contributor to the offense. He is averaging 8.4 points in 24.9 minutes per game while compiling the best shooting percentages of his career from the field (44) and 3-point range (42).

Factoring in advanced statistics, he's probably having the best of his seven NBA seasons. His Player Efficiency Rating is tied for his highest mark and his Win Share, which estimates the number of victories he has contributed this season, is easily the best. It's also the first season in which he hasn't been a statistical detriment to his team's offense.

"I just go out and play," he said. "The mental level that I've been able to deal with the good and bad has been the best this year than it has been. The reason why is that I've experienced all the things I have in the past. I just try to stay in the present."

PHOTO GALLERY: Pacers Prepare for Orlando with Individual Workouts »

Holiday's mental level will be challenged when the Pacers leave for Orlando on Thursday. He says it will be "very tough" for him to leave his family. But he'll also be spending time with other members of his family in Orlando. He'll see his youngest brother and Pacers teammate, Aaron, every day, and will have opportunities to be with his other brother, Jrue, who plays for the New Orleans Pelicans.

"I don't know the last time we (all three) spent two or three months together," he said.

"This is going to be something we can add to what we've done together. And we don't know if it's (Aaron and his) last time playing together on a team or not. I wanted to maximize that experience. Hopefully it's not the last time, but we know how this league works."

Holiday acknowledged that his upcoming free agency also factored into his decision to play in Orlando. Not playing could damage his value in the marketplace. Playing could do the same if he suffers a significant injury. The best scenario of course is for him to play well and help the Pacers win.

"There's a risk on both ends," he said. "I would be lying if I told you being a free agent didn't play a part in this at all. I want to have a career after this year."

Holiday said he expects the games in Orlando to be intense. The atmosphere, however, will be dramatically different, largely because of the absence of fans and background noise. The NBA is considering adding fake crowd noise to the broadcasts to drown out what players and coaches might say on the court, or might add a significant delay to give producers a chance to bleep profanities.

"It's going to be crazy because you can hear everything," Holiday said. "That's the one thing I'm very, very interested to see and experience, because it's going to be hilarious. There might be more techs than usual because the refs are going to be able to hear everything."

Holiday has been one of the more outspoken Pacers regarding the current social climate and plans to continue that in Orlando. He mentioned the players' desire to wear warmup shirts supporting social justice and hopes to continue the current narrative by sharing the experiences of some of his Black friends.

He said he hasn't had bad experiences since joining the Pacers, largely because of his status as an athlete, but hasn't been immune from them. He cited some less serious instances of stereotyping, such as being mistaken for a bellhop while a guest at a luxury hotel.

"I'm not picking out the most painful things," he said. "It's good for me to brush off (that type of incident), but that's a situation that can hurt some people more than others.

"In Indiana I haven't dealt with harmful situations...because as a basketball player I'm seen as, 'He's OK.' That happens a lot here. I'm sure if they didn't see me as Justin, as some big Black dude, especially with braids, I would be seen differently."

Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Mark Montieth's book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.


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