One-on-One with Justin Holiday

Justin Holiday discusses signing with the Pacers, being teammates with his younger brother Aaron, and what he will offer Indiana on the floor and in the locker room.

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One-on-One with Justin Holiday

Justin Holiday discusses signing with the Pacers, being teammates with his younger brother Aaron, and what he will offer Indiana on the floor and in the locker room.
Aug 8, 2019  |  02:30

One-on-One with Naz Mitrou-Long

Naz Mitrou-Long speaks about signing a two-contract with the Pacers and Mad Ants and why he has so much respect for the Pacers organization.
Aug 9, 2019  |  02:03

Justin Holiday on Signing With the Pacers

July 31, 2019 - Justin Holiday discusses why he chose Indiana, as well as his relationship with his brother and now teammate, Aaron.
Jul 31, 2019  |  03:14

Naz Mitrou-Long on Signing Two-Way Contract

July 31, 2019 - Guard Naz Mitrou-Long discusses signing a two-way contract with the Pacers, his experience playing on a two-way in Utah, and advice from close friend and former Pacer Georges Niang.
Jul 31, 2019  |  03:19

Highlights: Justin Holiday

July 31, 2019 - The Pacers have signed guard/forward Justin Holiday to a contract. Check out some of Holiday's best plays.
Jul 31, 2019  |  00:57

Pacers Take a Second Holiday

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

There were those early lonely nights in 2011 in Belgium, where he began a professional basketball career that's taken him to outposts you can't pronounce. He had failed to get drafted and failed to earn a guaranteed NBA contract with his Summer League play, so there he was. Living in a foreign land. No phone, no internet, doubt and bitterness seeping into his soul.

"I was struggling," Justin Holiday recalled on Wednesday after signing a contract to play next season with the Pacers.

"I really had to sit there and think. I was like, 'I'm just going to go home. I can't do this.' Being mad that I didn't get drafted...you know how you can get when you get down.

"But I've never been a quitter."

By not quitting, by enduring a treacherous path that's deposited him at a 12th stop, Holiday stands as a tribute to perseverance. Either that, or a lack of insight on the part of the six other NBA teams who have acquired him but not kept him.

Check out this mind-bending itinerary:
Okapi Aalstar in Belgium
Idaho Stampede of the G League
Philadelphia 76ers
Szolnoki Olaj in Hungary
Golden State Warriors
Santa Cruz Warriors
Atlanta Hawks
Chicago Bulls
New York Knicks
Chicago again
Memphis Grizzlies

And now the Pacers, who see potential for varied contributions from the 6-foot-6 wing. Holiday is a strong defender, a solid passer, and a respectable 3-point shooter. He's also a road-tested veteran who is regarded as a mature locker room presence, well-positioned to offer leadership. Not just to his younger brother Aaron, who is headed for his second season with the Pacers, but anyone else on the roster.

At 30, Holiday is the oldest player on the team's roster as it stands today, by nearly three full years. Doug McDermott is now the second-oldest Pacer, having turned 27 in January, so Holiday will have a respected voice in the locker room. Not so much because of a playing career in which he's averaged 8.1 points over 357 games, but because of the qualities that enabled him to find a foothold in the league after so many disappointments. By now, he should have something to say to anyone who will listen.

"At certain times I didn't want to accept it, but I'm a natural leader. Period," he said. "Regardless of whether I'm the guy scoring 30 points or not. That's just how I am. I'm always the person trying to help people through things. I've experienced so many things."

Holiday has played with championship teams — his Hungarian team in 2014 and Golden State in 2015, which he made without a guaranteed contract — and with poor teams. He's been cut multiple times, been traded multiple times, and made two stops in the G League. He has started 162 games, he has played off the bench for more than that and he has sat on the bench for the entirety of plenty of games. No other Pacer can approach the breadth of his experience.

Justin Holiday

Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

"I've done it all," he said. "So I think I'll be able to help someone, some way, somehow.

"I can speak to someone who is a normal person and 100 percent feel I can motivate them and encourage them to do what they want to do. Because I am that normal person. I got cut a lot of times before I made it. You can do it. It's just a matter of how much time you want to put in."

Justin Holiday, as you might already have noticed, is far more outgoing than Aaron, at least with people he doesn't know well. He joked easily with the reporters assembled at St. Vincent Center, and was thoughtful in his response to all questions. He suspects Aaron is happy to have him as a teammate ("as much as he doesn't show it"). He believes his mother is happy he'll be on hand to help his younger brother, and he knows his father will appreciate the more streamlined approach to following his three sons' careers.

Where once the Holidays had to follow three teams to keep up with Jrue, Justin, and Aaron, now it's only two. Justin's brother-in-law has determined that will save seven days' worth of time each season, given all the watching and re-watching on television and the traveling to see games in person.

Justin traveled the most difficult road of the three. Jrue and Aaron were first-round draft picks, anchored by guaranteed contracts from the very start. Jrue is an established star with a mega contract, while Aaron is coming off an encouraging rookie season. Justin is the one who averaged less than a point a game as a freshman at Washington after refusing to take a redshirt season, worked his way up to becoming a co-captain with Isaiah Thomas as a senior, worked out for about 15 NBA teams before the Draft, then experienced the disappointment of not hearing his name called.

A look back at the 2011 Draft offers perspective of his perseverance. He's played in more NBA games than 23 of the 30 players selected in the second round that year, and more than nine players drafted in the first round.

But he's also fresh. He's played in all 82 games in two of the previous three seasons, but isn't as war-torn as most 30-year-old NBA veterans. He's played a total of 8,083 minutes, which is 5,277 minutes fewer than 26-year-old Victor Oladipo has played despite sitting out more than half of last season. He's a young 30, as was proven in a conversation with a lady in a store recently.

"Are you going to play basketball someday?" she asked.

"How old do you think I am?" he said.

"About 18."

"I'm 30, and I do play."

Still, he doesn't feel as if he's officially "made it." The memory of those early nights in Belgium remain fresh in his memory, as do all the times he's been cut or traded. He has a young body and an old head, but that doesn't guarantee future employment in the NBA.

"The 'I made it' feeling for me, I don't know if it's possible," he said. "Because I always feel I can get better.

"My mentality is just to work and go after it and be the best you can. I know after basketball there will be something else I find to improve and get good at."


Bio Blast

Born: April 5, 1989
Size: 6-foot-6, 185 pounds
Stats: Averaged 11.6 points on 38 percent shooting as a starter in 38 games for Chicago last season, and then 9.5 points while starting 39 of 45 games for Memphis. Has a career field goal percentage of .390 and a career 3-point percentage of .349. He owns Chicago's franchise record for the longest streak of hitting at least one 3-pointer in a game, 43. He has twice scored 30 points in an NBA game.
Postseason: Has played for just one playoff team, Golden State, with whom he appeared in five games in 2015.
Personal: He's known his wife since he was five years old, through church when the Holidays lived in Louisiana.
Numbers game: He will wear No. 8. It reflects a Bible verse, Proverbs 24:16, which reads, "For though a righteous man falls seven times, they rise again..." "This is the eighth time for me," he said. "I'm rising again. That's how I always see it."
Quote: "I literally came here because of the culture of the team, the coaching staff, and the people in the front office. And my brother; that helped as well. But this team wins every year."


Naz Mitrou-Long

Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

Mitrou-Long Signs Two-Way Deal

Nazareth "Naz" Mitrou-Long also was introduced to the media on Wednesday, after signing a two-way contract. He joins Brian Bowen II in that category, meaning the two will spend most of next season with the G League Mad Ants in Fort Wayne but also can be called up by the Pacers.

Mitrou-Long, a 25-year-old 6-foot-4 guard, played the past two seasons with Utah's G League affiliate in Salt Lake City as well as in 15 games for the Jazz. He began his NBA experience on the Pacers' Summer League roster in 2017 after going undrafted.

He averaged 18.8 points for the Salt Lake City Stars last season and then 16.8 for Cleveland's Summer League team.

He was a roommate of former Pacer Georges Niang all four of his season at Iowa State and last season in Utah. Niang has given him a positive review of the Pacers, and even offered a restaurant recommendation: Yard House.

"He said they have a good Caesar (salad) and a good salmon," Mitrou-Long said.

Niang and Mitrou-Long have been working out together in Ames, Iowa this summer, replanting their college roots.

"You can't get into anything even if you want to," Mitrou-Long said. "It's a special place because you have nothing but positive energy from everybody. You need things like that off the court."

Mitrou-Long said he will wear jersey No 15, because that was his age when he left Canada to come to the United States and earn a college scholarship. He will decide within the next couple of days whether to try out for the Canadian National Team.


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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