NBA AM: Jrue Holiday Feels The 76ers Can Contend
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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The Philadelphia 76ers changed the makeup of their team this offseason by swapping swingman Andre Iguodala for All-Star center Andrew Bynum and experienced shooting guard Jason Richardson. While Bynum looks to be the team’s leader and go-to guy, Jrue Holiday will be looked to for leadership as well. The fourth-year point guard has been one of the 76ers’ biggest contributors since being selected 17th overall in 2009 and has helped the team make consecutive playoff appearances. In 2010-11 they lost in the first round, in 2011-12 they made it to the second round, and in 2012-13 he sees more progress on the horizon.
“Oh for sure,” Holiday said to HOOPSWORLD when asked if the 76ers can contend. “I think definitely because of what happened last year and what people saw. Heart goes a long way and just being able to fight. The pieces that we added have everything that we want and are good teammates to make us a good team
“I think the pieces we added are going to take us to that next level, especially with the shooters we have. We struggled with scoring last year, but I don’t think we will this year. And, we have one of the best big men in the league. I think we’re on the right path.”
Despite the increased expectations and being in a contract year, Holiday isn’t feeling much more pressure than in years past.
“Not really,” Holiday said. “All I have to do is pass the ball to Dorrell (Wright), J-Rich, Nick (Young) and wait for them to make the shots. It’s going to be fun.
“As a point guard, trying to set these guys up, it’s more fun. Especially when you’re around guys who have been playing the game for so long and really knowing how to play the game for so long. So, it’s a learning experience as well as fun.”
What also makes the game fun for Holiday and the rest of his teammates is the freedom they have to push the ball when the opportunity presents itself. Even though they just added one of the best big men in the game in Bynum, they’re going to continue to speed up the tempo when they don’t run through him in the halfcourt.
“I think we tried last year,” Holiday said. “We got a lot of easy points off of fast breaks. Maalik (Wayns) is probably the fastest guy on the team. He gets to the basket easy. Pushing the ball is definitely something we want to do every game.”
With plenty of experience under his belt, Holiday looks poised for a big year. His comfort level is as high as it’s ever been, as his confidence.
“I guess I have (felt like I belong and am an elite guard) for a while now,” Holiday said. “I’m just feeling comfortable on this team, being a part of it and being able to contribute. The Sixers showing me I’m one of the core guys who they kept here feels really good.
“It’s weird to say but I’m one of the longest guys who has been here and I’ve only been here four years, or I’m going into my fourth year. But, it’s comfortable. I already know the system, what coach wants and I just kind of have to relay it on to the new guys.”
If Holiday does indeed thrive this year and Bynum lives up to his potential, the 76ers could have a one-two punch that not only makes them contenders this year, but many years to come.
Smush Parker Fires Back: Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is notorious for being hard on his teammates. As it turns out, it’s not just his current teammates either. Five years removed from his last season in the backcourt alongside Smush Parker, he still talked negatively of him recently. Parker, who was actually quite productive during his two year stint with the Lakers from 2005-2007 but only played in 28 NBA games afterwards, went on the offensive.
“I’m lost for words,” Parker said on the radio show Hard 2 Guard. “It makes me blush for my name to still come out of that man’s mouth. It makes me blush.
“The two years in LA were a blessing to me. People who ask me how it was playing for the Lakers, people ask me how it was playing with Kobe Bryant? I said in 2008 that it was an overrated experience
“What I don’t like about him is the man that he is, his personality, how he treats people. I don’t like that side of Kobe Bryant. Basketball is a team sport. It is team-oriented. It’s not an individual sport. It’s not tennis or golf, it is a team sport. When you are the star of the team, you have to make your teammates feel comfortable. You have to make them feel welcome and he did not do that at all.”
Kobe has been known as someone who mainly kept to himself for most of his career, but during the Parker years he was really unwilling to open up.
“I had a workout with the Lakers, beat all the guards out for the starting position and earned a spot on the team,” Parker said. “Midway through the first season, I tried to at least have a conversation with Kobe Bryant – he is my teammate, he is a co-worker of mine, I see his face every day I go into work – and I tried to talk with him about football. He tells me I can’t talk to him. He tells me I need more accolades under my belt before I come talk to him. He was dead serious.
“We’re teammates, we talk basketball on the court. Our talks were about getting him the ball pretty much.
“On road trips, he traveled with his security guards. Those were the guys he talked to. On the team plane, he sat in the back of the plane by himself.”
Parker, who also told a story of Kobe sitting off on his own during a team-bonding experience that Phil Jackson sent the Lakers on one year, thinks his inability to get along with Kobe had more to do with his departure than his play.
“The reason I wasn’t a Laker after my second year is because I didn’t bow down to Kobe,” Parker said. “I didn’t kiss his (expletive). I wasn’t kissing his feet. Quite frankly, towards the end of the second season, I stopped passing him the ball. I stopped giving him the ball. I started looking him off.
“Kobe Bryant says I’m the worst point guard, that I should have never made it into the NBA – he just frowns at the thought of me playing in the backcourt with him. Like Jay-Z says, people lie, numbers don’t. Just go to the stats.
“If I don’t deserve to play in the NBA, why am I third on all the stat sheets on the Lakers team those years? I’m top three in all the categories.”
Laker Point Guards On The Block: Onto to current Laker point guards, Steve Blake and/or Chris Duhon are available to any team willing to absorb their contracts according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. Blake is set to make $8 million over the next two seasons, while Duhon will make just south of that at $7.6 million over the next two as well..
Duhon and Blake are capable of serving as a quality backup to the starting Steve Nash, which makes it unnecessary for the Lakers to keep both. There isn’t enough minutes for both of them behind Nash, and the Lakers payroll is already way over the luxury tax threshold. They also have second-year point guard Darius Morris who they like. So, with four point guards on the roster, it appears that Blake or Duhon will be the odd man out sometime before the deadline.
Stein mentions Fisher as a possible late-season addition for the veteran’s minimum. However, Fisher, a favorite of Kobe Bryant’s, is not eligible to join the team until March.