On the Beat: Holmes, Amidst Progress, Ready to Keep Grinding
In several instances when the 76ers have been on the road this season, the opposing team’s public address announcer has gotten tripped up in trying to pronounce the first name of the player sporting the Sixers’ number “22” jersey. Sometimes, it’s been “REE-shawn.” Other times, it’s been “ri-CHAWN.” But, as Richaun Holmes confirmed Tuesday, the correct way to say his name is, and always has been, “ri-SHAWN.”
“I’ll try to let ‘em know,” he said jokingly following Tuesday’s practice at Vivint.HomeSafe Arena in Salt Lake City.
If Holmes continues to deliver performances like the one he did in that very same building the day before, odds are his name, and subsequenctly the correct way to say it, are going to become that much more commonplace. Against the Utah Jazz, the 6’10” tall, 245-pound power forward muscled his way to a career-high 18 points, depositing eight of his 11 field goal attempts. Ten of those points played a pivotal role in rejuvenating the Sixers in the third quarter, and sparked a 33-10 push that nudged the Sixers in front for the first time in the game.
“For me, it’s just about, when I’m out there, do what I can to help the team,” said Holmes. “Whether that’s five minutes or 20 minutes. Just go out there and try to maximize the time I get, and try to help the team get a win.”
Holmes logged 22 minutes versus Utah, his third-highest total of the year. While the Sixers ultimately failed to fend off the Jazz, falling 95-91, Holmes made his presence felt. Two of his buckets were dunks, bringing his season total to 24. Holmes also converted five lay-ups.
“Just go up strong,” Holmes said, describing the offensive approach. “If you don’t go up strong in this league, it’s getting sent back. Just try to go up as strong as possible, and just go up and try to get the finish.”
In addition to regularly displaying his muscle and strength at the rim, Holmes has flashed an occasional perimeter finesse as well. He nailed his fifth three-pointer on 21 tries this season versus the Jazz. His senior campaign at Bowling Green, he hit 42.0 percent (18-43) of his outside attempts.
“I think he looks great, he acts great,” said Brett Brown. “I love him. I love him. And I think he’s going to grow into a legitimate pick-and-pop three-point threat, an interior presence where he can go finish in traffic. He doesn’t back down from anything that’s physical. I really have a soft spot for him.”
“Soft,” however, isn’t an adjective that comes to mind when thinking of Holmes’ style of play. His interior consistency has helped the Chicago native pick up his production since returning from a nine-game absence caused by a right hamstring injury. Six of his seven double-figure scoring showings have come in his last 14 appearances. Brown has noticed a rookie in rhythm.
“Just more comfortable what the NBA language is, how NBA refs ref. Understanding the physicality of the NBA. Understanding what illegal defense is, the rules of the NBA. Understanding the rigorous routine, flying, traveling, practicing of the NBA,” Brown said of the 37th overall selection in this past June’s NBA Draft. Holmes spent his final three collegiate seasons at Bowling Green, after transferring from Moraine Valley Community College, located in suburban Chicago.
“I think it’s a real sort of case study of a four-year college player versus a one-and-done guy,” said Brown, noting that being a husband and father has also contributed to Holmes’ mature demeanor. “They’re just further along in their body, their mind, their development, their skill. So his path to improving I think has been expedited a little bit by people that have been one-and-done. You just get a more seasoned-type player. So his progress has been better explained because of that background, I think.”
According to Holmes, his experience in college “hardened” him, and prepared him to be “ready to grind,” regardless of circumstances.
“Just learning how to handle the ups and downs of things. Going one night without playing, coming back, keeping work in and staying consistent, and now I’m starting to figure out my place.”
Despite Holmes’ promising effort in Salt Lake City, Brown indicated the big man’s playing time could still be subjected to individual game-by-game match-ups. For example, when the Sixers play in Sacramento on Wednesday, Holmes might face an obstacle getting on the floor, due to the Kings’ tendency to rely on smaller personnel configurations.
“It’s part of judging the game,” explained Brown. “So as much sometimes as you strive for a routine and a rhythm to your subbing, and who’s playing, and how you’re subbing it, sometimes you don’t have the luxury of that, because of the opponent, like [Wednesday] night.”
Going into Wednesday’s contest, both the Sixers and Kings have questions surrounding big men. Jahlil Okafor’s availability remains uncertain due to lingering soreness in his right knee. Sacramento All-Star DeMarcus Cousin could be slapped with a suspension in the aftermath of his ejection from the Kings’ loss to the Golden State Warriors on Monday.