IF EVERY DAY WAS A HOLIDAY, IT WOULD BE SO NICE
Team media day in the NBA is like the first day of school and picture day rolled into one. Players wear their uniforms for the first time since the previous season while cameras flash and video rolls to capture the moment of optimism for a new season. But when the date has been delayed for months due to a lockout and new ownership has taken control, media day for the Philadelphia 76ers held Wednesday comes with a tad more excitement reminiscent of the approaching Christmas holiday.
Yet, the buzz filling 76ers practice facility on the campus of PCOM (Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine) was another holiday; Jrue Holiday.
The 6-4 point guard, now entering his third season, played college ball at UCLA where they have spit out NBA point guards (Baron Davis, Jordan Farmar, Russell Westbrook and Darren Collison) like Cookie Monster crumbs. Holiday finished the regular season last year averaging 14.0 ppg and 6.5 apg but really opened some eyes with his playoff performance popping 20 in one game and 19 in another and two games where he dropped 8 assists in the first round lose to the Miami Heat.
“Everything is in order like Feng Shui,” says the Southern California native anticipating the 2011-12 season. “It was awesome playing in the playoffs last year and I thought I played well.” However, he is not resting on the last year’s laurels. Without stuttering or stammering he stated that his goal is to make the All-Star team.
The rest of teammates see something unique in Holiday as well.
“I tried not to get down on Jrue last year in that he was a young player but there weren’t many occasions where I had to even do that,” says Elton Brand. “He has a learning curve and he will learn to control the ball game like a vet but he is a special talent. His defensive skills are uncanny; he can finish with both hands, sees the floor and can pass. We are not asking him to be MVP but he can make a jump just like Derrick Rose.”
Andre Iguodala mimicked Brand by characterizing Holiday as special. “He’s one of the best on ball defenders in the league and although not fast he is deceptively quick,” says Iguodala.
A group led by Josh Harris, the billionaire leveraged buyout specialist took control of the reign this past October and have quickly made some changes. Seemingly, many fans will applaud the removal of the mascot Hip Hop as according to polling only 1 in 7 liked the gangsta rabbit. No polling was necessary to get a feeling on the dropping of ticket prices that new ownership also instituted. And according to the players there are other tangible and intangible differences.
Thaddeus Young: (Smiling)”It’s much different. It’s just the vibe when you walk into the practice facility or anywhere around the team. They changed and upgraded a lot of stuff including the facilities (new and improved players lounge and video room). And the coaching staff is in control now and that’s a good thing.”
Elton Brand: “My job this summer was to make sure the guys were on their p’s and q’s and to be prepared – whether we had a season or not. Now, that we are back make sure are ready for this sprint of 66 games in 123 days.”
Andre Iguodala: “I see my role as a leader to play hard each and every day even when I don’t feel like it. I have to show the younger guys how to play through the grind.”
SECOND TIME AROUND
Evan Turner was the No. 2 overall selection in last year’s NBA draft and by most accounts he had an up and down if not disappointing season for such a high draft selection.
Evan Turner: “It was good times and bad times and I think I learned from both situations. You always have to adapt and pay your dues. I had to play behind Dre (Andre Iguodala). But I’m ready to compete and have a positive mind set.
Thaddeus Young’s take on the 76ers locking him up this past off season with a five year $42 million contract.
Thaddeus Young: “What is says to me is that the team has a lot of confidence in me and now it’s my job to continue to do what I’ve been doing. That’s getting better each and every year and that is what I have done so far. I could have gone to play in China during the lockout as they offered $3million to play for about four months. That’s a lot but I was thinking more about the long term being here and not the short term money.”