Last week, Jrue Holiday was selected as an Eastern Conference reserve player for next month’s NBA All-Star Game. The arrival of Holiday to this elite environment is not coincidence and far more than a lucky chance.
Just over 13 months ago, at the Philadelphia 76ers media day officially opening the 2011-12 lockout shortened season, I had the opportunity to chat with Holiday. He was coming off an excellent second season and surprising showing in a first-round playoff lost, yet he still seemed unusually confident entering last season. He actually shocked me with what he had to say.
“Everything is in order like Feng Shui,” said the Southern California native anticipating the new season. “It was awesome playing in the playoffs last year and I thought I played well.” Then without stuttering or stammering, he stated that his goal was to make the All-Star team.
Although the Sixers had some team success last season including upsetting the Chicago Bulls to get to the second-round and surpassing the previous year’s run. However, Holiday’s production slipped during his third season as his scoring average dipped from 14 to 13.5 ppg and his assists dwindled from 6.5 to 4.5 per game. This time last year, a Holiday all-star selection seemed like a distant galaxy away.
But what a difference a year makes. With back-up point guard and long-time Sixer Lou Williams leaving for the Atlanta Hawks, the offense was basically all in his hands. And he has all-star aspirations have come to fruition. With Holiday leading the Sixers without prize off-season acquisition Andrew Bynum playing one minute due to knee injuries, the team jumped out to early success with a 10-6 record.
The team’s record has slumped to 19-26 but not Holiday’s play. His scoring has jumped almost six points to 19.4 ppg, which is second in the East among point guards only to second-year star Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers (and fellow all-star) while his assists has catapulted to 8.9 per game, fourth in the entire league.
The first game played after his selection, proving the coaches made the right decision, all Holiday did was drop his career-high of 35 points in a 97-80 win over its Atlantic Division rival and leader New York Knicks.