All-Star Notes: Holiday soaking up experience

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All-Star Notes: Holiday soaking up experience

HOUSTON -- Jrue Holiday sat at a table wide-eyed and smiling as he answered all questions lobbed his way.

“It is crazy,” Holiday said of dealing with the All-Star media wave. “All the attention that you get is kind of overwhelming. You get in there with the guys like LeBron (James) and KG (Kevin Garnett), who has been here 15 years straight. It is cool to see how they handle it and react to it. I am just trying to soak it all in.”

Holiday was named to his first time All-Star team as a reserve. There was a chance that he could have been in Sunday’s starting lineup with Rajon Rondo sidelined by an injury. However, Eastern Conference and Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra tabbed his own Chris Bosh to start the game.

Kobe still on top of his game
While Holiday is in town for his first All-Star appearance, Kobe Bryant is going through the experience for a 15th time.

The throng of media that have wanted to talk to the Lakers superstar has not waned one bit over the year, which amazes even Bryant.

“The level of consistency that I have had throughout the years is very humbling,” Bryant said. “It feels good to have that. I mean, I never thought that in my 15th year that they would vote me in this much. That says something about them wanting to see an old dog out there running around, but it is a really good feeling to have that.”

Despite still playing at an elite level, Bryant didn’t hesitate when dismissing any notions of him playing again on an international stage such as the Olympics.

“I am done,” he said.

When asked about knowing when it will be time to leave the NBA, Bryant didn’t give a date but he has a definite plan.

“I think you just know. You just know,” he said. “If I want to just walk away, I will just walk away. I think it is something that you just feel and decide, and it’s coming.”

Bryant talks Bynum
Bryant’s time to leave may be coming, but what about the debut of his former teammate, Andrew Bynum, wearing a Sixers uniform?

“A lot of it is luck,” Bryant said of staying healthy in the NBA. “I have been really, really fortunate to not have anything serious happen to me. I have had a couple minor procedures, but they weren’t serious.

“You have to have a little luck with injury and hopefully he can get right and get healthy, because he is a hell of a player.”

Bynum played seven seasons alongside Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant saw Bynum grow into a dominant center and a post presence that helped the team win a championship in 2010. That growth hit a high mark last season when Bynum averaged career highs in points (18.7) and rebounds (11.8).

Bryant’s message to the many disappointed Sixers fans is simply to hang in there.

“He is a phenomenal talent. Extremely, extremely skilled,” Bryant stressed.

“I feel like anything that comes out of Kobe’s mouth is respected,” Holiday said. “I feel like he pays his dues, but when he does it means a lot. Knowing how good Andrew is and how good he can be, obviously gives me a lot of hope.”

Sergio Rodriguez ready for 'opportunity' of 2nd NBA stint

Sergio Rodriguez ready for 'opportunity' of 2nd NBA stint

GALLOWAY, N.J. — It’s Round 2 for Sergio Rodriguez.

Ten years after beginning his first stint in the NBA, he is back as a veteran point guard on the Sixers. The green 20-year-old is now 30, with European and Olympic experience behind him. Rodriguez is looking to build upon his previous four NBA seasons, which culminated in 2010, in a leadership role in Philadelphia.

“It feels great,” Rodriguez said Thursday after the training camp morning session at Stockton University. “It’s a second opportunity for me.”

Rodriguez played three seasons for the Trail Blazers from 2009-10 and split his fourth year with the Kings and Knicks. He averaged a quiet 4.3 points, 2.9 assists and 1.3 rebounds in 13.2 minutes per game. Rodriguez returned to his native Spain and found a higher level of success, including winning the EuroLeague title with Real Madrid, being named EuroLeague MVP, and competing in the Olympics. Last season Rodriguez averaged 10.9 points (40.9 percent from three), 6.2 assists and 2.2 rebounds in 24 minutes for Real Madrid. 

Head coach Brett Brown considers Rodriguez one of the top point guards that had played in Europe. 

“He just has a real gift for understanding, especially offensive tempo,” Brown said. “I think that his ability to run a pick-and-roll and figure out how teams are playing it and where they’re rotating from about a pass sooner, one dribble sooner so he can pick off rotations. He’s very gifted in that environment. I think he’s got a bounce to his game and a pace to his game that he will be absorbed in how I want to play well.”

Both Brown and Rodriguez anticipate challenges on the defensive end as Rodriguez re-acclimates himself in the NBA. He will be tasked with guarding some of the league’s toughest point guards, and will also be involved in numerous pick-and-rolls each game. 

After years of playing in Spain, Rodriguez has to get to know a new group of players. He considers the responsibility of a point guard to be getting his entire team involved, particularly with all the youth on the SIxers.

“I will try to feel comfortable for my teammates. For a point guard, you need to have the confidence that everybody is happy playing with you,” Rodriguez said, also noting, “Always the point guard has to run the show. Especially for this team, we have so many young players that need to develop and need to know how to win.” 

So far that is working.

“Sergio’s great,” Nerlens Noel said. “He’s a real vocal leader, even with that little accent he’s got. He makes it work. I think as the season goes along, we’ll continue to get on the same page and really start to mesh a little better.” 

Rodriguez left the NBA as a young guard and is now ready to make a comeback with years of experience. 

"I’m very excited to have this upcoming season and to be successful for my team, my teammates, the organization," he said.

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Brett Brown left training camp last September with an unsettling feeling. He had just completed long days of scrimmages, drills and planning, and yet he sensed the Sixers were not ready to tackle the 82 games that lied ahead. 

“I remember driving back to Philadelphia last year knowing in my heart of heart that this group was going to be challenged,” Brown said Thursday following the morning practice session at Stockton University. “That was a frightening drive home. That drive home scared me because I felt like, I know what we have and how are we going to be able to maneuver through this?”

Brown was right. The Sixers lost their first 18 games and began the season 1-30. They stumbled the rest of the way, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a dismal 10-72 record. 

“We really didn’t know who the point guard was,” Brown said. “We came in extremely injured, we were trying to make the Nerlens [Noel]-Jahlil [Okafor] thing work, there really weren’t a lot of veterans to look around [and see], and you knew it.”

Now in his fourth training camp as head coach, with 47 wins and 199 losses with the Sixers behind him, Brown has different emotions as the team nears the end of training camp on Friday. 

Instead of a constantly-changing lineup of players, the Sixers are building a roster that can serve as the foundation for the future. There are nine new players on the team, including first overall pick Ben Simmons and rookie Dario Saric. Joel Embiid will make his NBA debut after two years of injuries, and the Sixers added veteran leaders in free agency.

Brown has a clearer picture of what the team could look like this season and beyond. He is coaching training camp to enter a new chapter, not to simply make it through the upcoming months. 

“You can leave and you can sniff reality,” Brown said. “Now what I see is there’s depth. There are challenges positionally as we’ve talked about. But there’s talent. There’s point guards. They’re sprinkled in with some veterans. How we grow it and play it is still on the table. To me, it’s a completely different feeling that I have now that I did not have last year.”

The additions of Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez at the one spot lessen the coaching load for Brown. He also can turn to T.J. McConnell from last season. The depth is a far cry from when the Sixers were quickly changing at that position and didn’t find a consistent starter until they traded for Ish Smith in late December.

“That position, I think, is vital when you start putting a bunch of 20-year-olds around it and trying to find some type of organization,” Brown said. “You just can’t replace a point guard’s intellect. You can’t replace, I think, somebody that has great command from that position. It certainly helps me.”

Brown expects to feel “proud” when the Sixers wrap training camp on Friday. He is looking forward to getting the season underway, beginning with two practices at the new training complex in Camden before their first preseason game Oct. 4 against the Celtics. 

Brown anticipates his drive home this time will be a much different trip. 

“I feel comfortable that we’re ticking boxes and we’re achieving the goals that we set out from the start of what we wanted to get done in Stockton,” he said.

The Sixers continued to monitor load management on Thursday, as Okafor, Embiid and Gerald Henderson did not participate in the morning scrimmage. Bayless also did not go through the scrimmage because of a sore left wrist.