Game Preview | At Just About All Times, Holmes Aims to Stay Ready

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

NEW ORLEANS, LA - The clock struck midnight, and the hour hand kept turning.

Richaun Holmes wasn’t much phased by the time. There was important work to be done. Work on his game, work on his mind, work on readiness.

The night before one of the biggest dates on the 76ers’ 2017-2018 home schedule suddenly morphed into the day of one of the biggest dates on the 76ers’ 2017-2018 home schedule, and there was Holmes, in the wee hours of the morning, still on the practice courts at the team’s training complex in Camden.

At that point, Holmes had gone two straight games without playing, held out of action under the designation “Did Not Play - Coach’s Decision.” The big man wasn’t hurt, but he did find himself in a situation where he had to bide his time and be patient amidst a stretch in which his minutes were down.

Not one to complain, or show outward signs of discontent, Holmes kept plugging away, in practices, at shootarounds, on his own time. Since being drafted by the Sixers 37th overall in 2015, this has been the Bowling Green product’s way. Never has he projected a hint of entitlement, or done anything to suggest he takes his place on the team for granted.

Holmes just works, and then works some more. Determination is a quality that’s served him well with the Sixers, and in life.

So really, the idea of Holmes working out until roughly 2.a.m last Thursday, a few short hours before his team would regroup for shootaround in advance of a primetime match-up with the Los Angeles Lakers, shouldn’t sound that far-fetched. Alternatively, it’s something that actually would seem to be very much on-brand for the Chicagoan.

Sure enough, this is exactly what Holmes did. He then made sure to get the proper amount of prescribed rest, and proceeded to go out and turn in a powerful, high-energy performance against the Purple and Gold. In 21 minutes off the bench, Holmes scored a season-best 13 points, snagged 6 rebounds, and was part of some of the evening’s most memorable highlights.

Along the way, the NBA on TNT broadcast team of Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller was singing Holmes’ praises.

After Holmes threw down the vicious two-handed slam to tie things at 101-101, Miller, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinee, proclaimed to the nationally televised audience,”Richaun Holmes, this is your moment, baby.”

That Holmes often brings an intense, ferocious demeanor to the hardwood is no accident. He plays mean, he plays angry, yet does so in an in-control fashion. His attitude has been one long in the making, chiseled initially during childhood, and hardened ever since. 

The youngest of Richard and Lydecia Holmes’ four boys, Richaun was brought up in a basketball household. All the brothers played. When he went up against them, nothing was ever given, and just about everything had to be earned.

“My whole family, we’re super-competitive in everything we do,” Holmes said this weekend.

That dynamic especially held true in toe-to-toe battles with brother Ray (there’s also Richard Jr., and DeAndre). Of sizable stature himself, Ray refused to take it easy on Richaun, regardless of how upset Holmes got.

“It took me until I was actually physically able to beat him to beat him, because he wasn’t letting me win,” said Holmes.

And Ray, who now coaches basketball, would win convincingly. Like to the tune of 11-0, when Richaun was only eight years old, the center recalled.

“That kind of started the fuel,” he said of his rivalries with his siblings. “They used to kill me.

“I was just angry at losing to them all the time, so I just naturally started playing mad, just to beat them. I kind of kept it throughout my basketball career.”

Has he ever.

It took Richaun another eight years of development before the lay of the land started to change. He was 16 when he defeated Ray for the first time, and still remembers the experience well.

“I felt like I could beat anybody at that point,” said Holmes.

The tables had finally turned. 

“He was upset,” Holmes remembers Ray feeling. “He wanted to keep playing and keep playing. We played one-on-one a lot, just about every day during that stretch. They were always close games, but I’d come out on top.”

Since then, Holmes’ trajectory has essentially been on the up and up. At Bowling Green, he capped his career with MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors. In three years with the Sixers, he’s accounted for 16.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per 36 minutes, while winning the admiration and respect of front office members, coaches, and teammates alike.

The league has taken notice as well, with veteran All-Star Dwight Howard being one particular player who has spoken highly of Holmes.

While the setting is different now than it was back in the day, Richaun’s brother Ray remains a dependable, willing workout partner for Richaun, and a trusted confidant, too.

“My brother’s been my biggest trainer since I was younger. When it comes to basketball, I’ll listen to him before anybody.”

Like in these past weeks, for instance, when playing time wasn’t regular.  

“He just talked to me about keeping my head, rebounding for the most part, and staying ready,” Richaun said of Ray’s advice.

That Holmes assigns great weight to Ray’s words was evident by how he approached Thursday’s game against the Lakers. Holmes seized the available minutes with the might of a deathgrip.

“You never know when your opportunity’s coming,” he said.

After that, it becomes a matter of backing it up.

On the heels of Thursday’s promising showing, and with the Sixers again shorthanded, Holmes was again productive in Saturday’s loss at Cleveland. For a second consecutive contest, he tallied 13 points, and hauled in 3 boards.

The extra lengths Holmes went to to stay fresh appeared to pay off, and for his latest batch of nightowl workouts, which aren't uncommon for him to do, Ray was right by his side, while in town visiting with the Holmes parents during a string of home games. The family shared meals together, and even snuck in trips to the movies, but for the brothers Richaun and Ray, it ultimately came back to basketball.

The court has always been place where they’ve passed time, regardless of the time of day. Holmes knows he’s been the better for it.

“You just got to always be ready to play,” said Holmes, “and the results take care of themselves.”

Opponent Outlook:

The New Orleans Pelicans (13-13) have so far had a streaky season - they won five of seven games to close the month of November, before slipping into their current 2-5 stretch. The All-Star frontcourt duo of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis have put up big numbers, combining to average nearly 51 points and over 23 rebounds per contest.

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