NBA Saturday: Jrue Holiday, All-Star?
Is Jrue Holiday An All-Star?
The Eastern Conference isn’t an easy place to make the All-Star Game as a point guard, even in a year when Derrick Rose, the likely starter if healthy, will not be participating. Several floor leaders in the East have shown promise as potential All-Stars, including Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams, Brandon Jennings and even Kyle Lowry before he got hurt and the Toronto Raptors proved to be awful.
But Philadelphia 76ers point guard Jrue Holiday is in that conversation, as well, despite being only 22 years old and in his fourth season in the league. He’s leading his team in scoring with a career-high 18.2 points per game and is third in the league in assists with 9.3 a game, which is also a career-high. He’s shooting the ball well (45.4 percent from the field) and has been an instrumental piece in keeping the Sixers afloat with Andre Iguodala gone and Andrew Bynum injured.
While he won’t get voted in as a starter, there’s a real possibility that Holiday makes the All-Star team as a reserve, and he admits that’s something he very much wants.
“It’s definitely a hope,” Holiday said of becoming an All-Star this season. “You want to be part of the elite category. You already made to the NBA, which is already elite, but being an All-Star is something amazing, a blessing that, right now, I can’t even think about. It’s early still, but I would love to be an All-Star.”
Of any player on the Philadelphia roster, he’s the guy with the best opportunity to make this year’s team, though middle-of-the-road teams without a superstar tend to have a hard time keeping up with organizations that have way more star power like Miami and New York and Brooklyn. Those three teams may end up with seven All-Star representatives by themselves, making Holiday’s play over the course of the next couple months very important if this is something he hopes to achieve this winter.
Holiday admits that just being given more control this season has attributed to his big-time numbers and noticeable improvement.
“I’m doing better, honestly, because I’m handling the ball much more often,” Holiday said. “I kind of shared that responsibility last year with [Iguodala] and Lou [Williams], but so much of it is just my teammates getting open and being in my vision so I can actually make the pass.”
Maturity has played a role in Holiday’s hot start, too. Four seasons ago he was the youngest player in an NBA uniform—the first player in the league ever to have been born in the 1990s. He’s not a baby anymore, and by simply growing up he’s become a leader for this Philadelphia team.
“I’ve come a long way, just growing up and getting a lot of experience in three years, making the playoffs two years in a row and playing against good teams,” Holiday said. “The first year we played against Miami, and last year we played against the Bulls and the Celtics who are both good playoff teams.”
And it’s those kinds of baby steps that star players must make before transcending to the next level. Holiday obviously hopes to do that by being named to this season’s All-Star team. Since the general public is not likely to vote him in over D-Will or D-Wade or Rondo, he’ll have to be added as a reserve. If he keeps this up, the coaches won’t have a hard decision to make on the young man.
This feels like his year, but even if he doesn’t make the All-Star team, we can all agree that this kid has arrived. It seems like only a matter of time before he’s playing in the big boy exhibition every February.
Chris Duhon Holding Down Fort for Injured L.A. Point Guards
With Steve Nash still hurting and Steve Blake out for the next two months following abdominal surgery, the L.A. Lakers have had a hard time trotting out a point guard that can consistently hang with the best players in the league. Chris Duhon, however, has been a solid stop-gap while the regular rotation guys heal, and having played 30+ minutes in each of L.A.’s last four games shows how much trust head coach Mike D’Antoni has in him to run such a highly-scrutinized offense.
Of course, Duhon has experience running D’Antoni’s offense since the two worked together in New York, and he has experience setting things up for Dwight Howard since the two of them worked together in Orlando, so even if Duhon’s numbers aren’t staggering, he’s helping smooth L.A.’s point guard problems over as Nash nears his return sometime in the next week or two.
Duhon sat down with HOOPSWORLD to chat about his role in this offense, his familiarity with some of his coaches and teammates and what the pressure is like actually being an L.A. Laker, this year in particular. Check out the interview in its entirety here:
Paul George Transforming Into Indiana’s New Closer
The Indiana Pacers were supposed to be one of the East’s top teams this season, and swingman Paul George was supposed to breakout as an All-Star candidate in his third season in the league.
So far, neither one of those things has happened, and there about a hundred different reasons why. Some new players are taking longer to fit in, some old players are proving to be bigger losses than maybe the Pacers realized and losing top-scorer Danny Granger for three months sure hasn’t made things any easier, either.
But despite a 10-10 start to the season and painful inconsistency, George is starting to come around. In Indiana’s last two games—both wins—George has averaged 28 points and 8.5 rebounds, while shooting over 50 percent from the field and 100 percent from the free throw line. More importantly, he’s playing well down the stretch as something of a closer, which is a role this team desperately needs filled with Granger out.
“I know I can be the guy that this team relies on, and it’s all preparation. I just have to prepare myself every night. That’s really what it comes down to,” George said.
“I live for those moments at the end of the game, when everything’s on the line,” George added. “That’s why I play the game of basketball.”
Head coach Frank Vogel agrees that George is someone he’s starting to be able to turn to late in games.
“The kid cares. The kid works as evidence of him getting off of a red-eye flight and coming right to the gym for two hours shooting,” Vogel said, adding, “I think this team is built with the mindset that anyone on any given night can be the closer; David West can get it going. George Hill can get it going. But Paul is definitely one of those guys that can get it going at the end of the games.”
Assuming he continues to show an ability to handle that pressure, there’s a strong chance that George gets more opportunities to have the ball in his hands for a contest’s closing moments. His coach is starting to trust him, and more importantly he’s starting to trust himself.
Overall, his play has been sporadic this season, especially for a guy so many thought would break out, but he and his Pacers are starting to find a groove. By the time Granger gets healthy, there may be a new sheriff in town, and that may be the best thing for Indiana moving forward.
In the meantime, though, George is showing what he can do in the clutch, and his last couple of big games prove that he’s headed back in the right direction.