All-Star Notes: Holiday soaking up experience

slideshow-021513-sixers-holiday-uspresswire.jpg

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.”

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol and Tony Allen scored 19 points each and the Memphis Grizzlies rolled over the Golden State Warriors 110-89 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

The Grizzlies led by as many as 30 points in the second half - the biggest advantage by any Warriors opponent this season. Seven Memphis players finished in double figures.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 21 points, while Stephen Curry added 17 points and Ian Clark finished with 10 points. Curry and backcourt starter Klay Thompson (eight points) were a combined 8 of 28 from the field, including 3 of 14 outside the arc.

Memphis built a double-digit lead early, led 61-38 at halftime and kept building in the third quarter (see full recap).

Butler, Wade lead Bulls to 105-100 win over Heat
CHICAGO -- Jimmy Butler scored 31 points, Dwyane Wade added 28 against his former team and the Chicago Bulls held off the struggling Miami Heat 105-100 on Saturday night.

Butler scored Chicago's final 10 points to help the Bulls come out on top after Miami pulled within one.

Wade keyed a big third-quarter run in his second game against the Heat, and the Bulls hung on after handing San Antonio its first road loss two nights earlier.

Goran Dragic led Miami with 21 points and 11 assists. An energetic Hassan Whiteside added 20 points after being benched for part of Friday's blowout loss in Cleveland. Tyler Johnson scored 15, but the Heat dropped their fifth straight (see full recap).

LeBron scores 44, reaches assist mark as Cavs down Hornets
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 17 of his season-high 44 points in the fourth quarter and reached another career milestone as the Cleveland Cavaliers won their fourth straight, 116-105 over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night.

James did it all, adding 10 assists and nine rebounds in 43 minutes. He took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 straight during one stretch to help the Cavs hold on.

As the final seconds ticked off, James stood at midcourt and spun the ball on his index finger as the crowd roared.

James, who moved into ninth place on the career scoring list Friday, recorded his 7,000th assist in the first half, becoming the first frontcourt player in NBA history to reach the plateau. James is the only player with 27,000 points and 7,000 assists (see full recap).

George has 37 points to lead Pacers over Blazers 118-111
INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George scored a season-high 37 points to lead the Indiana Pacers over the Portland Trail Blazers 118-111 on Saturday night.

George made five 3-pointers, and Thaddeus Young hit six 3s while getting 24 points and nine rebounds. Myles Turner added 14 points for the Pacers, who had lost five straight regular season games to Portland.

C.J. McCollum made a career-high seven 3-pointers and had a season-best 34 points for the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard had 33 points behind five 3s.

George scored 13 straight points in the fourth quarter for Indiana. He was fouled on the go-ahead basket with 4:36 remaining and completed the three-point play to give the Pacers a 108-105 lead (see full recap).

Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor to play Sunday, Joel Embiid out (right elbow)

Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor to play Sunday, Joel Embiid out (right elbow)

CAMDEN, N.J. — Two bigs back, one big out.

Nerlens Noel will make his regular-season debut Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Noel has been out since the preseason after undergoing elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October.

Jahlil Okafor also will return following a bout of gastroenteritis, which sidelined him for the last three games. Neither Noel nor Okafor will have minute restrictions. 

Joel Embiid, on the other hand, will not play Sunday. He will miss the game because of minor inflammation in his right elbow, which he suffered in Thursday’s game against the Pelicans. The decision also is in conjunction with the load management plan the Sixers have mapped out for him. Embiid did not practice Saturday and will not travel to Detroit. 

“It’s very minor and we expect him back soon. Not much concern at all,” Brett Brown said of Embiid, adding, “I think it’s far more precautionary than anything people should get nervous about.”

With Embiid out, the addition of Noel will help the Sixers when they battle the Pistons and big man Andre Drummond, who is averaging a dominating 15.0 points, 13.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks this season. Noel will come off the bench as he gets reacclimated to the team and the flow of the game. 

“I felt great [to be cleared to play],” Noel said. “I was anticipating it so I got my mind right and this is what I’ve been working for throughout the whole rehab process. I’m feeling good and looking forward to it.” 

The Sixers are mindful of the fact Noel has not played in a regular season game since the finale last April. He has been working on getting his wind back up, and the Sixers will watch it closely in-game when determining his playing time. Noel said he has a “good starting foundation” with his conditioning. 

“You can do as much as you want on a treadmill,” Brown said. “You can do as much as you want one-on-zero … but there is nothing that’s like an NBA game. Everything goes faster, everything goes quicker, you have emotions involved which can also drown how fast and how long you can go. Those things are just part of him coming back into it, and we’ll manage him accordingly.”

Noel’s debut is the first step for him, regardless of how many plays. His athleticism will give another look to the lineup. Brown foresees having Noel back will allow the Sixers to play faster and protect the rim with a greater “bounce.” 

“We miss playing with Nerlens, just his presence,” Okafor said. “He’s an athlete. Obviously we miss him on the defensive side. We miss him as a leader vocally. It’s just going to be great having him back on the floor.”

The Sixers could counter the Pistons with the combination of Noel and Okafor, a duo they struggled to utilize together last season. Brown’s decision will be based on matchups. He pointed out a situation in which Drummond and Jon Leuer are on the court would be more favorable than one in which Tobias Harris is playing power forward. 

“You just try to pick your moments where you can maybe pair those guys up,” Brown said. “I think it will be a more genuine conversation as Nerlens starts playing more with us. He’s just really come back into it. But we come back and you play Toronto and you have all three bigs available, then it becomes another level of a conversation. I do look forward to it when we have an opportunity to intelligently match up with other people and we’ll play it out like that.”

The Sixers' next game after Sunday is Wednesday against the Raptors, when they expect to have their bigs ready to go.