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Opportunity Knocks for Aaron Holiday in Orlando
No point denying it. Aaron Holiday took the news that Victor Oladipo wouldn't play when the NBA season resumes in Orlando with a certain amount of anticipation.
He's not happy Oladipo has decided he's not ready to compete in the games, calling it "understandable" and saying, "We're all behind Victor."
But he is happy about the opportunity Oladipo's absence will afford him. Whether he starts alongside Malcolm Brogdon in the backcourt or comes off the bench, he's sure to play more.
"I believe my agent called me, and the organization told me as well," Holiday said Monday in a Zoom call with media members. "Your mindset switches very quick. You go from coming off the bench playing maybe 15-plus minutes to now possibly having to play 30 minutes.
"It's a great opportunity for me and I'm excited for it. I'll try to prepare as best I can before we fly to Orlando."
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Holiday said he doesn't care whether he starts or not, but that seems like likeliest scenario. Jeremy Lamb, who started before Oladipo returned on Jan. 29, is still injured. Justin Holiday has started just twice and T.J. McConnell three times. Aaron Holiday, meanwhile, has started 26 games.
If Malcolm Brogdon recovers from his positive coronavirus test and is available in Orlando, he would move to shooting guard alongside Aaron Holiday. The two started together in 12 games before the season was postponed. Discounting the games at Houston and Milwaukee in which Brogdon left early because of an injury, the Pacers were 7-3 in those games.
They defeated Washington, Detroit, Orlando, Oklahoma City, and Sacramento, then lost to Milwaukee, Dallas, and Toronto, then defeated Chicago and San Antonio. That means one victory and all three losses came to teams with winning records.
Getting enhanced playing time because of a teammate's injury has been the theme of Holiday's season. Oladipo, Brogdon, and Lamb all have missed a significant number of games, forcing coach Nate McMillan to turn to Holiday more often.
Results have been mixed, but encouraging.
Holiday is averaging 9.4 points in 23.6 minutes per game. He averaged 11.8 points and 4.8 assists in the 32 games he started, playing 29.8 minutes per game. He's shot better overall off the bench, but he's been at his peak as a shooter when playing 30 minutes or more — 44 percent from the field, including 42 percent from the 3-point line.
"I've learned a lot this season," Holiday said. "(I've received) a lot more opportunity and minutes, so I'm able to grow a lot during that time. I had a lot of good games, a few bad games. Just to stay even keeled throughout the season. It's a long season, you're going to make shots, miss shots, have good games, bad games."
Holiday stayed in Indianapolis after the season was suspended, then drove to his parents' home in the Los Angeles area when it became obvious the lockdown would last into summer. He worked out and got up shots with his father at the goal at his brother Jrue's house for a couple of weeks, then returned to Indianapolis when the St. Vincent Center practice facility reopened.
He also watched video clips sent to him by the Pacers' staff. His primary lessons from that were defending screens and letting the offense flow.
Regardless of his role, Holiday looks forward to playing real games again. The setting in Orlando will be unprecedented, but it's all he or anyone else in the NBA has at the moment.
"The biggest challenge will be playing with no fans, because we're used to playing off their energy, pretty much playing for them," he said. "So now it's more so us getting out there like a practice or scrimmage. You have to (be self-motivated) and try to fight out there with your teammates."
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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.
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