Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Jrueth Will Set You Free

The Philadelphia 76ers are not a good team. No one expected them to be among the elite, and it is still very early in the season for a young team with a new head coach. But the facts are the facts, and the Sixers currently sit at 5-9, sitting squarely at 11th place in the Eastern Conference. It's safe to assume the Sixers expected a little better than that. This is to say the Sixers aren't a team that will be competing for a championship anytime soon. The playoffs, sure, but this is a squad that should be putting its most talented players out on the floor and letting them develop together. I'm not sure Eddie Jordan realizes that.

Here's what I mean by that. Earlier this month, I pleaded with Jordan to give everyone more Jrue Holiday. Holiday was coming off his best performance as a pro, a game against the Suns where he went 3 of 5 from the field, 2 of 3 from three, scoring 8 points and adding three rebounds, two assists and two steals in just 15 minutes. He played hounding defense and showed great maturity for a 19-year-old rookie. And he proved he can score a little bit too. It was evident that he still has a ways to go to put it all together and reach his potential as an NBA point guard, but his abilities clearly shone through. Jrue can ball.

Since then, Holiday's minutes have been few and far between. On occasion, Jordan has given the first-round pick some decent run, but for the most part, he's been buried on the bench. Holiday is averaging just 7 minutes and 35 seconds of time per game. That's just not enough, not for your first-round pick, not for the guy pegged as the future starting point guard. And he's been buried on the bench for what? To develop Lou Williams at the point? Listen, I like Louis Williams a lot as a basketball player. He's a rare scoring talent with lethal speed who is a nightmare in the open court to defend. He's instant offense. But Lou Will is not a starting point guard in the NBA. He's just not. He's probably not even a point guard of any kind. Or a starter for that matter. Williams thrived the past two seasons as a dynamic scorer off the bench, a difficult-to-guard sixth man. That's what he is in this league. Not a starter, especially at point. Not with his decision-making, and not with his complete lack of defense.

Holiday, on the other hand, looks like he has what it takes to become a solid starter at point down the line. He's an aggressive, tenacious on-the-ball defender, selfless passer and a player who looks like he knows what's going on even though he's just a 19-year-old rookie. He was an uber-recruit and considered top 10 talent in mock drafts for a reason.

That's not to say Holiday should be starting ahead of Louis Williams right now. Not at all. Williams is a veteran and a calming influence, even at his young age, and Jrue still has plenty to learn. But he's not doing the team or himself any good by sitting on the bench for all but 7-8 minutes a game. Especially on a team that has no reason not to play him. And every time Holiday is in the game, he hustles his butt off, plays sound basketball and looks a little more confident each and every time out there. Yet he can't get off the bench.

Take last night's game for example. The Sixers were taking on the lowly Wizards, and they weren't doing a good job. There was no life in the team, and the Sixers fell behind by 14 points in the fourth quarter to the team with the third worst record in the conference. Holiday was not out there for a single minute in the first three quarters. Not a one. Against the Wizards, in a game in which the starters showed absolutely no emotion or energy. But Eddie wouldn't put him in. Explain that one to me.

Finally, with just 9 minutes and 40 seconds left and the Sixers trailing by double digits, Jordan finally relented and put the team's first-round pick in. All Holiday did was come in and grab an offensive board, hit a three, then hit another three, then nab another rebound, notch an assist, haul in another offensive board, followed by one on the defensive end, followed by a steal that he turned into three points with his third trey of the game, then another steal, another offensive board and a bucket on a tip-in, a block, yet another offensive rebound, and wouldn't you know it, the Sixers got back to within three, then two, then one. And the Sixers had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but Louis Williams couldn't nail the shot.

Jrue Holiday played the final 9 minutes and 40 seconds of the game, his only time on the floor all night, and the Sixers turned what was once a 14-point deficit into a chance to win. Sadly, they lost 108-107, but the fact that they even had a chance to steal this one was because of Holiday. In that 9:40 of time, Holiday scored 11 points on 4-6 shooting, 3-5 from three, nabbed six boards (four offensive), notched an assist and added two steals and a block for good measure. The Sixers were a +10 when he was on the floor. And for the only time on the night, the Sixers looked like they gave a shit when he entered the game. Explain to me again why he wasn't on the floor earlier?

Look, the Sixers aren't going to make any real noise in the immediate future, no matter how much this team gels in the coming months and no matter how much healthier, comfortable and effective Elton Brand does or does not get. This is a team that should be looking a few years down the line, when guys like Thaddeus Young, Marreese Speights, Jason Smith and yes, Jrue Holiday mature and develop to the point where they can truly be dangerous alongside Andre Iguodala and whoever else is still around by then. This is the time to get the rookie point guard out there and let him learn on the job, gain valuable minutes and experience against other NBA point guards to serve himself and the team down the line. It's not the time to bury him on the bench, make him question his decision to go pro after just one season at UCLA just so he can watch as Louis Williams and company lead the Sixers to a .357 winning percentage.

You drafted Jrue Holiday for a reason, and it wasn't to idly sit by and watch from the bench. You drafted him to be the future point guard of the Philadelphia 76ers. Give him the chance to prove himself. In his limited minutes this season, he's earned it.

BallHype: hype it up!


  1. The Curse of Benedict Brand is real. I hate this is affecting your team, but if that piece of shit hadn't led Baron Davis astray, this wouldn't be happening.

    I'll take your word for it on Holiday. I remember watching him at UCLA, and not being overly blown away, but it's hard to deny the production he's putting up in such limited time on the court.

  2. I never wanted Brand to begin with. And I'm not saying Holiday will be a star or a stud or anything, but the Sixers clearly drafted him to be their point guard of the future. Let him go out there and learn, develop.

    Just doesn't make any sense to bury young guys when you're a team trying to find an identity and building for the future. Plus, Jrue has shown some nice flashes.