HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Surprising trades usually leave the players involved suspended in a state of shock for at least a few days after the deal goes down.
Not Jrue Holiday.
He only needed minutes to wrap his head around the Draft night deal that sent him from Philadelphia to the New Orleans for Nerlens Noel. Yeah, the whole “Pelicans” thing takes some getting used to, but from a purely basketball perspective, the All-Star point guard said he needed only minutes to process exactly what went down.
“It was like five minutes, to be honest,” Holiday said. “After I got the call and they said I got traded, I immediately thought about [Sixers guard] Evan Turner. We’d been through everything together in Philly, really grown up together in the league in Philly along with Thad Young, Spencer Hawes and those guys, But then I thought about it and it was like, ‘oh snap, Eric Gordon‘s on your team. Anthony Davis is on your team. Ryan Anderson, Austin Rivers and at the time [Robin] Lopez. This could be crazy.’ They sent me to a good team. This could be a blessing in disguise.”
There is no camouflage needed. The Pelicans have transformed their roster from a mismatch of ill-fitting parts to a talented core of versatile young players poised for a climb, that could come sooner rather than later, in the Western Conference playoff chase.
Holiday gives the Pelicans all sorts of flexibility in their stacked backcourt, that also includes Tyreke Evans. Holiday got a chance to work with Davis and his new coach, Monty Williams, during USA Basketball’s mini-camp last week in Las Vegas. Williams was on the coaching staff and Davis on the opposite team during the Blue-White Showcase.
“He’s a genuine guy sand he’s a winner,” Holiday said of Williams. “He wants to build a winner. And that’s what I’m about, so that should be an easy transition. Anthony is a beast and one of the best young big men in the game. At the end of the day, they’re winners and that’s what I’m trying to be in this league.”
Holiday was the youngest player in the league when the Sixers selected him with the 17th pick in the 2009 Draft. He experienced his share of growing pains early on, having to adjust from playing off the ball at UCLA to being the Sixers’ primary ballhandler and facilitator. He mastered the job by his fourth season, earning All-Star plaudits during what turned out to be a tumultuous season for the Sixers.
They followed a surprise playoff run in 2012 by making a blockbuster trade for Andrew Bynum that cost them valuable pieces, including Andre Iguodala, Nik Vucevic and Moe Harkless.
By the time the dust had settled, Bynum’s fragile knees kept him from playing a single second during the 2012-13 season and the Sixers crashed, with coach Doug Collins moving on to a front office position and ultimately Holiday being jettisoned for yet another franchise reboot under new general manager Sam Hinkie.
“All of that is in the past,” Holiday said. “I’m not looking back. We’ve got a chance to do some special things in New Orleans.”
And the glut of bodies in the backcourt and on the perimeter is something that Holiday insists will work in the Pelicans’ favor as opposed to being the source of friction. Making it work, of course, is up the men involved.
“I think that comes with being good teammates and good team players,” Holiday said. “It’s not about one dude coming in and dominating the ball and trying to do everything. Obviously, I don’t need the ball to score and make an impact on the game. I feel like I can do that in other ways. Same thing with Eric, Austin and Tyreke. I think the depth makes it easier on all of us.”
The only thing Holiday doesn’t have a great handle on right now is the Pelicans nickname, the world itself makes him smile when discussing the franchise’s new moniker and image.
“It’s funny, I’m not going to lie,” Holiday said. “‘We’re the Pelicans.’ But I’ve said it about a half million times now. I’m pretty much used to it now, though. The new color scheme is dope. The uniforms are going to be sick. I’m excited. I think we’re going to do big things.”