The first time Doug Collins ever made an All-Star team, the thrilling part was simply walking into the locker room at the Spectrum to see his teammates. Earl Monroe, Walt Frazier, Dave Bing and Dave Cowens were all there for the 1976 Bicentennial game in Philadelphia.
Thirty-seven years later, Jrue Holiday is going to walk into the locker room at the Toyota Center in Houston to see his teammates for the day. LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony will be there alongside of Holiday.
“I’ll never forget walking into the locker room and looking around at guys who were my boyhood heroes,” Collins said after Thursday’s practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Holiday, the Sixers’ fourth-year point guard, was selected to his first All-Star team on Thursday. The 22-year old from UCLA got there on the strength of a team-leading 19 points, nine assists and 38.1 minutes per game averages despite the Sixers’ sub par 17-25 record.
He got the news of his first selection to an All-Star Game on his way to the Wells Fargo Center watching the Flyers play. He chose to attend the Flyers game over watching the All-Star announcement on TNT because he would be too nervous to listen for the announcement.
“I think somebody text me. Actually our PR guy Mike (Preston) told me as I was coming to the game, and now my phone is blowing up,” Holiday said of how he found out about making the team.
In getting the All-Star nod in a vote of the conference coaches, Holiday joins Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving as first-timers in the Eastern Conference’s backcourt. Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis as well as Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams also were considered for the spots as reserves on the team.
Also joining starters James, Rondo, Wade, Garnett and Anthony for the East are Chris Bosh, Tyson Chandler, Paul George, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng who were also selected as reserves.
For Holiday, the All-Star berth is a continuation of a breakout season in which the guard has solidified himself as the building block of the franchise. Last summer, Holiday played for the U.S. Select team during the U.S. Olympic training camp and also inked a four-year contract extension worth $41 million.
Just 22 and in his fourth NBA season, Holiday is going to be around for a long time.
“It was definitely big playing with the USA Select Team this summer,” Holiday said. “Obviously, playing against the best players in the world and just seeing what they do, how they think and just picking their brains. That, and then the experience in the playoffs. A little bit of Derrick Rose, Paul Pierce and KG (Kevin Garnett), you just learn so much, so it was definitely big.”
“This is another part of his growth,” Collins said about Holiday. “For him to play on the Select team last summer against the Olympians, to get into that room and see those guys and sit around and talk, all those are growth areas and this will be tremendous for him.”
Holiday has lifted his stats across the board this season after going through a bit of a disappointing year during the compressed/lockout campaign. Most notably, Collins has heaped a lot more responsibility onto Holiday’s shoulders as the guard rates in the top 10 in the NBA in minutes played per game and is fourth in assists per game, all while running the show for the Sixers. Holiday not only distributes the ball and looks to score on his own, but he also guards the opposing team’s top ball handler and finds himself as the focus of every team’s game plan.
Certainly with a week off between games during the All-Star break, some time to rest might suit Holiday and the Sixers well in the long run, right?
Maybe not, says Collins.
“When you watch those young guys get a chance to go to a USA basketball camp and get a chance to spend time around those guys for 10 or 12 days, or have the fortune to make a team like that for the first time, watch the next year and see what it does for their games. It goes from guys becoming All-Stars to winning MVPs to winning championships,” Collins explained. “So I would never selfishly want the rest for Jrue over the experience. That experience would be worth more than I could ever pay for for him.”
Though Holiday played in the Rookie-Sophomore game a few years ago and got to experience All-Star Weekend first hand, he’s certain that a chance to go to an All-Star Game as a player is much different.
A week off would be nice, but not as nice as a trip to Houston.
“I don’t think I would have told you it would be this soon,” Holiday said of making the team. “But when I was selected 17th [in the draft] I was the last one left in the green room, and I remember thinking I am just going to have to work my butt off, and now here I am an All-Star.”
Dei Lynam contributed to this report.