New Orleans guard Jrue Holiday has made it clear in numerous recent interviews that he doesn’t play for praise, accolades or media attention, but if it were up to his teammates, the 10th-year NBA veteran would be named an All-Star reserve Thursday – which would mark Holiday’s first selection to the game since he came to the Crescent City in 2013-14. Holiday was named to the NBA’s first-team All-Defense squad last season and has begun to garner significantly more credit for his play since his stellar work at both ends of the floor in Round 1 of the ‘18 playoffs vs. Portland, but he’s only been an All-Star once, back in ’13 with Philadelphia. Changing conferences six years ago has been detrimental, because the West is filled with no-brainer backcourt picks, including Stephen Curry, James Harden, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson and Russell Westbrook.
“He gets snubbed,” said New Orleans forward Wesley Johnson, a nine-year NBA veteran. “He doesn’t get the credit he deserves, especially at that guard position. I think everybody knows those guys, the Steph Currys, the Damian Lillards, because of the amount of points they score and how they do it. With Jrue, he does it in all different types of ways, but he also guards the ball better than anyone I’ve seen in person. So he should be an All-Star.”
Holiday might not be focused on getting named an All-Star on Thursday, but he made another compelling case Tuesday on TNT’s airwaves, spearheading an unlikely 121-116 road win at Houston. The 28-year-old’s stat line of 19 points, six rebounds, eight assists and six blocks was the first of its kind by any guard in NBA history, but just as importantly, he played dogged defense against Harden. Houston’s MVP frontrunner scored 37 points, but was pestered into an 11/32 shooting night.
“What’s impressed me the most is his consistency on both ends of the floor,” said Pelicans point guard Elfrid Payton, a new teammate of Holiday’s after signing with New Orleans in free agency. “It’s very hard to do, especially with the amount of minutes he plays. To be able to bring it offensively, defensively, be able to get other guys shots. He does a good job (defending) against the best player on the other team every night. It’s not a cakewalk when he’s guarding you. Guys don’t usually get their (usual) numbers, and if they do, they have to take a lot of shots to get there. It’s really a shame if Jrue doesn’t get (named an All-Star).”
“He can impact the game in both ways,” Johnson said. “Being able to guard the guys he does and shut them down – while also being efficient at the offensive end – is very impressive.”
With rampant three-point shooting creating better spacing in the NBA, and rule changes or enforcements leading to even greater advantages for offenses, it’s probably never been more difficult to make an impact at the defensive end, but as Holiday says, “I love to play defense.” As players like Harden continue to put up astronomical scoring numbers, defensive prowess at times can get lost in the conversation, but the Pelicans will never take for granted Holiday’s work in a sometimes-unnoticed aspect of the game.
“Even if they put a four-point line out there, he’d still stick to his principles, make sure he’s ready for the next challenge and goes out prepared for it,” Solomon Hill said of Holiday’s defensive mindset. “In a high-powered, high-caliber basketball era, he doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves. Especially when you can do it at both ends, at a high level.
“There are guys who might be averaging 10 points more than him, but those guys don’t have the same defensive responsibility as him. That’s something Jrue continues to do. He may not be an All-Star, but he’s first-team All-Defense – and that’s something we don’t need a vote to know. We don’t need media or anyone to say it. It’s already set in stone. You’re talking about a first-team all-Defense guy, but you can also look at his numbers, be it his scoring or assists. I don’t see why he shouldn’t at least be in the talks to be an All-Star.”