Jrue Holiday feeling at home in New Orleans

New Orleans Pelicans' Jrue Holiday (11) tries to steal the ball from Houston Rockets' James Harden, left, during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
New Orleans Pelicans' Jrue Holiday (11) tries to steal the ball from Houston Rockets' James Harden, left, during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Posted: January 02, 2014

NEW ORLEANS - With the stunning development of 76ers rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams, it's easy to forget the player he replaced.

Yet Jrue Holiday had the type of game Monday and has had the kind of season in his first year with the New Orleans Pelicans that shows why he remains among the bright young players in the NBA.

Holiday totaled 31 points, 13 assists, seven rebounds, and just two turnovers in just under 38 minutes during the Pelicans' 110-108 win over the surging Portland Trail Blazers at the New Orleans Arena.

It was only the sixth loss in 30 games for a young and dynamic Portland team.

As for Holiday, he is long over the summer trade that sent him to New Orleans and will net the Sixers two first-round draft picks.

The Pelicans won both games this year against the Sixers, with Holiday averaging 17.5 points and 12.5 assists.

The Sixers haven't regretted the trade, especially with the quicker than expected progression of Carter-Williams. But it is also a reminder that they gave up a quality player to earn the two No. 1 picks in return.

"He was an all-star last year and as good as he was last year," Portland coach Terry Stotts said about Holiday after the game. ". . . He showed tonight he is one of better point guards in the league."

Holiday hasn't missed a game for the Pelicans, who improved to 14-15 with the win and remain on the fringe of playoff contention in the loaded Western Conference. During the first 29 games he averaged 15.3 points, 8.3 assists, and 4.7 rebounds in 34.3 minutes.

"He has the ability to be one of the very few two-way players who plays a lot of minutes," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said of Holiday.

Williams added that it's rare that a player who goes so hard at both ends of the court will play more than 25 minutes.

"Jrue does it 35-40 minutes a night and he is about as tough as they come," Williams said.

In trading Holiday, the Sixers went full blown into rebuilding mode. Injured center Nerlens Noel, the player taken with the No. 6 overall pick acquired in the Holiday trade, and Carter-Williams are the centerpieces.

Yet it's easy to overlook that Holiday, now in his fifth NBA season, is only 23 years old, one year older than Carter-Williams.

"I am 23, growing old, getting some chest hair," Holiday said, laughing.

Despite his age, on a young squad, Holiday is considered among the leaders.

"It is fun and is a challenge, learning from a new team and new players, and obviously I am loving it here," Holiday said.

It is a Pelicans team that has some bright young parts such as 20-year-old Anthony Davis, a likely future multiple all-star and Philadelphia-area native Tyreke Evans, who at 24 is in his fifth NBA season.

"When it comes down to it, I think we are going to be a really good team," Holiday said.

Nothing against Holiday, but Sixers fans hope that the Pelicans aren't too good this year.

As part of the trade, the Sixers received the Pelicans' first-round pick this year. It is top-five lottery protected. In an expected deep draft, if the Sixers were to receive a pick in the 6-8 range, they likely would get a very good player.

Then again, that's not Holiday's worry, although he has nothing but good memories from his four seasons in Philadelphia.

"I miss my teammates," he said. "I grew up there in a basketball sense as well."

So he will always have a special spot for Philadelphia.

"I started there when I was 19-years-old and from 19 to 22 that was home," he said. "Now I found a new one."


mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|