Sixers' Jrue Holiday relishes first All-Star Game, even though East falls to West

Posted: February 18, 2013

HOUSTON - Per his coach's demands, 76ers guard Jrue Holiday was to absorb each and every moment of his initial All-Star weekend. As much fun as Holiday was supposed to have, Doug Collins also wanted it to be a learning lesson for the 22-year-old. Holiday was told to take in the atmosphere, talk to the stars who surrounded him in the locker room and watch how the greatest players in the world prepare to play the game.

And all weekend, Holiday appeared to be the wide-eyed student, commiserating with all of his favorite teachers. He hung with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony. For some moments, he wasn't the starry-eyed fan of some of the greatest players on the planet, he was actually a peer. But for the most part, he followed his coach's direction, the highlight of it his playing time in his first All-Star Game, the East's 143-138 loss to the West.

Holiday came off the bench and played 15 minutes, shot 3-for-6 and scored six points.

"When you're out there, you're out there for a reason, with the best of the best, and that's to win," Holiday said. "You see guys like Kobe [Bryant] and LeBron going at it. You see Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul going at it. It's the best trying to be the best.

"It was weird coming off the bench. It was different. I didn't want to embarrass myself, that was the biggest thing. I wanted to make something happen, make them stand up and cheer."

Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant scored 30 points, the third straight time he's scored at least that in the All-Star Game. Teammate Chris Paul scored 20, dealt a game-high 15 assists and won the game's MVP award, while Blake Griffin scored 19, most coming via thunderous dunks.

Anthony scored 26 points and hauled in 12 rebounds. Wade added 21 for the East, while James checked in with 19.

While the theme of the night appeared to be which player could wear the loudest and ugliest sneakers - and Holiday was right there with neon green adidas - the true stars did what the fans wanted to see: spectacular dunks, deadly long-range shooting and head-shaking passes. And occasionally even some tough defense.

Though his playing time wasn't anything to write home about, as he was the last player called off Erik Spoelstra's bench, Holiday did wow the crowd with his off-key rendition of Rihanna's "You Da One" during a timeout that was shown on the huge, high-definition video screen above the floor of the Toyota Center. His winking and kiss-blowing during the video were far better than his singing, for sure. And his first two baskets were memorable, the first being a lefthanded, running slam, the second a buzzer-beater to end the third quarter.

When starting guard Rajon Rondo, of Boston, went down with a season-ending knee injury a couple of weeks ago, there was a chance that Holiday might have been plugged into the starting lineup. When asked about that, Holiday said he was ready for it not only for the playing aspect, but also for the pregame introduction, which usually includes a little dancing by the starters.

"I got a little something that I can show," he said. However, Spoelstra, the coach of the Miami Heat, inserted his own Chris Bosh, and Holiday played the role of cheerleader much of the night.

The weekend was just about everything Holiday had hoped for, except he couldn't bring home the title in the Skills Competition held Saturday night. Holiday was able to post the fastest time in the first round, and faced Portland rookie Damian Lillard in the finals. Holiday missed on a couple of passes, then couldn't find his jumper. He wound up with a second-place finish.

"I thought I had it," he said. "I guess I was feeling myself too much. After I messed up on the first [pass] I started choking. It was fun, I thought I had it. My jumper, man, if I'd have missed the first one and made the second one I would have been good. I think I got nervous after I missed that first pass, after that first bounce pass. After that I got a little nervous. For me, I just want to win, not just for the money. I wanted to be number one. Did you see the size of that trophy? That could have been at my house."

He will return to Philadelphia Monday without the heavy trophy but with a lifetime of memories and lessons learned.

He also will have the heavy burden of trying to get the Sixers back into playoff contention. It will be an interesting final 31 games as a possible debut of Andrew Bynum is still pending, and the team sits four games behind Milwaukee for the final playoff seed in the East.

Holiday will have to store away just about everything that happened this weekend and concentrate on leading his team.

"It was busy, but it was fun," he said. "I think I got a 20-minute nap between everything I had to do, but it was fun."


On Twitter: @BobCooney76

Blog: philly.com/Sixerville

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