HOUSTON –- Saturday morning’s All-Star practice is a show for the fans. The half-court shootout and a game of knockout get the place going crazy year after year. LeBron James hit a half-court shot in a sudden-death round to notch a victory for the East in that competition.
Then Jrue Holiday did the Sixers proud in knockout. He was one of three left when they called the game a tie between him, Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
There was a time, years ago, when coaches would actually try to implement plays during the morning practice. But common sense has prevailed. The weekend is about putting on a show, a show that need not be rehearsed or scripted.
Holiday’s personality is a big reason he was in the final three of knockout. He is L.A. cool with a competitive edge, a skill that was honed in a California backyard, where Jrue would battle his older brother, Justin, one-on-one.
“We stopped playing one-on-one because we would fight,” Holiday said. “We wouldn’t keep score or anything, but someone would do a better move on the other person, and then one of us would throw a ball at the other, and it would come down to a move in the post, and you would elbow him in the chest or something. So we stopped playing one-on-one in the seventh or eighth grade.”
The games may have stopped in the Holiday’s backyard, but the lessons had already been learned. Justin had made Jrue a competitor and vise versa. No one, not Chris Paul nor LeBron James, could ruffle Holiday’s feathers in the competition. Saturday morning was nothing compared to the backyard.
The Sixers' starting point guard hopes to take that same attitude into Saturday evening’s skills competition, where he will dribble, pass and shoot in as fast a time as possible.
“Hopefully I get in there and do well and feel comfortable with it,” Holiday said. “The only thing I am scared of is the bounce pas. I think that is going to be the hardest thing, but I should be ok.”
We have seen Holiday’s approach to a game. He tries to remain calm at all times and yet he is not afraid to take risks, a characteristic he says has led to too many turnovers on too many nights. Still, he can thank both his parents for the personality that drives his approach to his profession.
“From my dad, I have the even keel, no emotion. It takes a lot for someone to get me mad,” Holiday said. “From my mom, there are times time when I am a little controlling. I want to have a hold on a situation, and if I don’t it bugs me. And if I trash talk, that’s from my mom, too.”
Holiday is sharing this weekend with his family and fiancé, Lauren Cheney, the two-time Olympic medalist, with one gold and one silver in soccer. As happy and proud Holiday is to be an All-Star, he knows this accomplishment pales in comparison to Cheney’s decorated career.
“She wears the pants in our house,” Holiday joked.
Holiday and Cheney met at UCLA, where she played soccer and he played basketball. He knew she was the one when he was 19 years old.
“It was really that easy,” Holiday said of the moment when he knew he had found the woman he wanted to marry. “It wasn’t that easy for her. I was three years younger and she felt that I had a lot of growing to do. She had experienced more in life.”
So the past couple years, the now 22-year-old Holiday set out to see the world with Cheney, taking in the World Cup two summers ago and the Olympic Games this past summer.
“Being a spectator is very nerve-wracking and again that’s one of those situations I don’t have control over,” he explained. ”I get anxious because I can’t control the situation at all and determine if Lauren wins or loses. Being there, watching her, I get nervous. Not only for Lauren but my siblings also. I just snap if it involves my family or someone I love.”
Who knew Mr. Cool was so emotional?
The only emotion he will be displaying Saturday night and Sunday will be happiness, because being named an All-Star ranks in the top three professional accomplishments Holiday has experienced in his young career.
“Most important thing was getting drafted,” Holiday said. "Being recognized as one of the top players in the world is pretty amazing. But being an All-Star, you don’t get lucky; you have to put in the work, time and effort. People see that and reward you for it.”
“Making the playoffs two out of my three three years, I never knew how crucial that was until last year,” he continued. “Andre Iguodala had never gotten out of the first round and Elton Brand had only one time. I didn’t think anything could be better than that first round. The first round was great, but making the second round is exciting and now I wonder what it's like after that.”
Always thinking, always dreaming, always wanting to experience a moment.
Jrue Holiday will do exactly that on Saturday night and again on Sunday.