Jrue Holiday dribbles vs. Utah defender Royce O'Neale

Jrue Holiday on competing in Orlando: ‘It’s a challenge, but it’s worth it’

by Jim Eichenhofer

So many aspects of the New Orleans Pelicans’ experience in Orlando later this month will be completely unfamiliar, including the fan-less environment, the league format, playing regular season games in mid-summer – you name it. Even the names on the backs of the jerseys may be different for some players, compared to what they sported a few months ago.

One constant for New Orleans from the past seven years will be present, however. Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday – who arrived in the Crescent City via a June 2013 trade – confirmed Wednesday that he’ll be with his teammates when they travel to Central Florida next week. The Pelicans will spend the rest of the month preparing for a July 30 matchup vs. Utah, the first of their eight seeding games at Disney World.

“I’m going,” Holiday said of participating, responding to a question that alluded to wife Lauren being pregnant with the couple’s second child. “I’m pretty sure everyone here (in the conference call) knows the medical history with our first child. This (pregnancy) is great so far. Lauren is healthy and the baby is healthy.

“I’m here to support my teammates. I’m here to support this culture we want to build, but at the same time, I’m here to go down to Orlando and try to win.”

Holiday, who turned 30 on June 12, added that he expects the birth to take place after the Pelicans have already completed their trip to Florida.

“It’s a challenge, yes,” Holiday said of the Pelicans’ extended stay inside the NBA’s upcoming “bubble” city. “But I think it’s worth it. And that’s why I’m here.”

Like most players, the two-time NBA All-Defensive selection has not been able to do much basketball activity during the ongoing pandemic, but he “still was able to get good work in, in the weight room and on the field (for cardio). Doing things to clear your mind from basketball and get a release from that. Having this break and not being able to touch a basketball was pretty good (from a physical recovery) standpoint, until it was time to come back.”

The longest-tenured Pelican and one of the team’s most familiar names among basketball fans, Holiday said he is considering replacing his surname on his jersey with someone else’s, potentially based on a social issue. He has not decided exactly what it will be, saying that he will be considering possibilities this month.

“I’ve been thinking what to put back there,” he said. “I don’t want it to be my name. I’d like to share (the story of) somebody else, to be on a national scale. Whatever I choose, it will be for a good reason, in my opinion. I’ve been thinking of names or slogans.”

From a team standpoint, since October training camp, the Pelicans (28-36) have stated that a primary goal for ’19-20 is to reach the Western Conference playoffs. With the NBA’s resumption of the season, New Orleans now has a chance to do so, despite starting the season 7-23, featuring a franchise-record losing streak.

“Talk about an obstacle that you had to get over,” Holiday said of the rough start. “We had a couple in the season. Zion (Williamson) out half the season, me being hurt, having that 13-game losing streak. We bounced back and were in a groove right when the pandemic hit. It was like the perfect groove for us, and we kind of felt like we that (eighth place) spot on lockdown.

“It is still ultimately the goal to make the playoffs. We know that it’s going to be tough, because you have teams that are right neck-and-neck with us (in the West standings), as well as Memphis, who doesn’t want to let (the eighth seed) go. Mentally, it’s going to be one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced as a team.”

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