Collins wants Holiday to enjoy All-Star experience

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Collins wants Holiday to enjoy All-Star experience

Sometimes it’s easy to forget to stop to smell the roses.

That’s why when Jrue Holiday heads to Houston after the Sixers’ game in Milwaukee on Wednesday night, head coach Doug Collins wants his All-Star point guard to soak it all in.

You know, stop and enjoy the golf course.

Wait … the golf course?

“Sometimes I can be out on the most beautiful golf course in the world and be playing horrible golf and forget that I’m playing on the most beautiful course in the world,” Collins said. “Enjoy the golf course.”

So when Holiday shows up in Houston for his first All-Star Game, Collins wants him to enjoy the course. Holiday should take a look around, says Collins. He should watch what some of the veterans do and pick their brains a little bit.

You know, enjoy the golf course.

“I hope it will be an experience that he remembers forever,” Collins said. “Mine was doubly important to me because it was in Philadelphia. It was 1976 for the Bicentennial game. What I would like him to do is walk in the locker room and just take a look around.

“Look in that locker room. Look who you’re sitting with. You’re 22 years old. Look around. Look at the men in that room. Look at your coach and look at the championships they have won, look at the gold medals they have won. Watch how they prepare themselves.”

Besides, Holiday might have to copy some of those preparation rites for next Sunday’s All-Star Game because there is a decent chance he could be called on to start the game. With Rajon Rondo out for the rest of the season with an ACL injury, the Eastern Conference has two point guards remaining on the roster. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has to decide on either Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving or Holiday to take Rondo’s spot in the starting lineup.

Holiday, of course, has had a terrific season. In 46 games he leads the Sixers with 19.1 points and 8.8 assists per game. He also is averaging a career-best 38.3 minutes per game, along with a 45.4 shooting percentage.

Holiday is seventh in the NBA in minutes per game, 13th in points per game and fourth in assists per game.

However, in his second NBA season, Irving is becoming a star among stars. He’s averaging 23.9 points per game, while shooting 47.3 percent from the field with 5.5 assists and 1.7 steals per game. Irving’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER), the most important metric for the analytic types in the NBA, is a robust 22.8. The 12 players with a higher PER than Irving are all All-Stars.

Nevertheless, Irving will also be playing in the Rising Stars game on Saturday night. If that effort proves to be too taxing for him, maybe Holiday will get the starting nod.

Regardless of whether he starts the game or comes off the bench for a few minutes, Holiday says he’s going to take Collins’ advice to heart.

“I’m going to take it all in,” Holiday said. “God willing I get back there again, but sometimes it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Take it all in and have fun.”

Who knows, maybe Holiday can pick up a few things from soaking in the atmosphere at the All-Star Game. After all, Holiday spent last summer playing for the U.S. Select team, which spent a week scrimmaging against the U.S. Olympic team in its training camp in Las Vegas. Based on the reports, the U.S. Select team gave the U.S. Olympic team some of its best competition last summer.

So following a stint with the U.S. team, Holiday has enjoyed a breakout season with the Sixers this year. Collins is hoping his point guard picks up some more nuances to add to his game whether through watching or osmosis.

If anything, Collins hopes Holiday sees how the other All-Stars prepare themselves to play and copies it.

“I used to say that Michael Jordan had an internal body clock. It was like a certain time would come and (clap!), it was time to get ready to play,” Collins said. “How do you get yourself in that moment every single night? The biggest part about laying this game is getting yourself ready to play. So watch, pick it up, talk to people. Talk to LeBron (James), talk to these guys you admire. Enjoy the game and enjoy the experience. I just want him to take it all in.”

But most of all, enjoy the golf course.

“Your first [All-Star Game], there is no other like it,” Collins said. “Enjoy the golf course, man. You’re on Pebble Beach. If you hit No. 8 in the water, the hell with it.”

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”