McKie trying to help Sixers' Holiday know what to expect on court

Jrue Holiday will be put to a tough playoff test by the Heat.
Jrue Holiday will be put to a tough playoff test by the Heat.
Posted: April 16, 2011

AARON McKIE remembers well.

It was 1995 in Phoenix, a first-round game against Charles Barkley's favored Suns, which featured point guard Kevin Johnson and super-sub Dan Majerle.

McKie, then, was a Portland Trail Blazers' rookie. His impression:

"Shell shock."

He could not believe how precisely the Suns ran through their offense, how well the Suns anticipated the Blazers' every move, how much faster the NBA moved in late April.

As a 76ers assistant, McKie now wishes he could somehow let his protégé, point guard, Jrue Holiday, know what awaits him at 3:30 p.m. today in Miami. It will be Holiday's first playoff game.

As good as the Heat was against the Sixers this season, as dominant as Dwyane Wade was in Miami's three wins, as tough as Wade and LeBron James made life for him - Holiday shot 11-for-32 against the Heat - things are about to get tougher.

McKie is eager to have Holiday endure it. He sees Holiday as much more than a 20-year-old complementary player. He sees Holiday as the cornerstone.

"This is a good test for him," McKie said. "I want him to be ready for this moment. Ready to become an elite player in this league. Ready to carry this franchise. He has those capabilities."

Holiday seems equally eager.

"That's what you live for. You want to play the best teams. You want to beat them. Prove yourself," Holiday said. "It's going to be big for me in my growth as a player."

In the past 3 years, there have been a lot of these moments for Holiday.

He had to play a first game as a freshman at UCLA. He went 4-for-8 with three steals. The next year, he debuted in the NBA, a 6-minute test of the water. This season, he had to debut for new coach, Doug Collins, a 2-for-9, five-turnover clunker against the Heat.

Now, with the world still fascinated by the Flaming LeBrons, Holiday finds himself in the withering glow of that fire. This easily is the biggest game and the biggest spotlight of his 20 short years.

"I've only heard about how crazy it is," Holiday said. "But I had heard how the NBA would be. How college would be."

They weren't like this. They won't move his game forward as much, either.

"It'll be really big for him. It's really important for him," Andre Iguodala said. "He doesn't have to play great. He needs to be solid. Understand time and possession, how important it is to take care of the ball. Starting to learn as a point guard what that position means."

Holiday isn't the only Sixers playoff virgin. Fellow starters Spencer Hawes and Jodie Meeks haven't played in the postseason; neither has rookie Evan Turner.

But they won't have the ball, or the team's fates, in their hands every possession.

Holiday must not try to play too quickly, Collins said. It is his job to rein him.

"This is where players [prove] their mettle. A coach's [worth] comes with his team's ability to execute under pressure. I'm hoping our team with be able to execute under pressure," Collins said. "We'll learn more about ourselves [today] than maybe we did in a month."

No one more so, perhaps, than Holiday.

"Everything's going to go so fast," Collins said. "You're going to have to try to slow it down. It's going to be an experience for us. You can't cut a check for the value it's going to be to our franchise."

Similarly, there is no way, Iguodala said, to fully prepare Holiday for today's madness; no way, McKie said, to predict what the Heat might throw at him.

"We don't know what they're going to run. They might come out and want to trap us fullcourt," McKie said.

McKie saw stranger things in his 10 playoff runs with four teams, six of them with the Sixers, with whom he played 61 of his 75 playoff games. McKie quickly adjusted to the speed, the hard fouls, the precise play and the pressure of the playoffs.

That night, 16 years ago in Phoenix, McKie scored 13 points on 6-for-11 shooting in 22 minutes.

And his Blazers got swept.

Take the better shot

From 18 feet, from 15 feet, from 20 feet, Jodie Meeks shot jumper after jumper. This he did in response to Doug Collins' instruction as preparation to get better shots from 23 feet, 9 inches, where the shots count for three points.

Meeks is 3-for-27 on three-pointers in his last four games. Teams are "selling out" in defending his three-point shot, Collins said, recklessly running defenders at him to disrupt his shot.

"I told him, 'Don't be a home-run hitter. Hit a single. Pump fake, take a dribble and make a 15-footer,' '' Collins said. "Guys aren't honoring that right now."

Meeks is 6-for-12 inside the three-point line in the those four games.

Minute-by-minute

Doug Collins will make sure to monitor that Andre Iguodala's knee and Lou Williams' hamstring do not tire too quickly, perhaps limiting their shifts to 5 or 6 minutes.

"I'll have to try to read 'Dre early. I've got to read Lou," Collins said. "Their injuries bother you when your leg gets tired."

Williams, a Sixth Man-of-the-Year candidate, strained his right hamstring 2 weeks ago and has not played since. Iguodala has fought tendinitis in his right knee for weeks and was given the last two games off - to what effect it is unclear.

"It took a little pressure off the knee. It didn't really stop any pain. I just didn't do any more damage to it," Iguodala said. "At this point, we're here. I'll have to go out and see what I can do."

Six shots

The Sixers will pick 16th in the first round of the 2011 draft . . . The Sixers believe the Heat is vulnerable on the glass, susceptible to both offensive put-backs and run-outs off defensive rebounds. *

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