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.”

Julius Erving, Allen Iverson gearing up for upcoming BIG3 draft

Julius Erving, Allen Iverson gearing up for upcoming BIG3 draft

The NFL isn't the only league with a draft coming up this month.

Julius Erving and Allen Iverson have some work to do, too.

The newly-formed BIG3 three-on-three league will hold the first player draft for its eight teams on April 30 in Las Vegas. Iverson is a player, captain and coach for 3's Company. Erving is the coach of Tri-State.

The BIG3 comes to the Wells Fargo center on July 16 during Week 4 of 10.

There are 24 spots remaining on the rosters. Over 70 former NBA players are hoping to be selected. Former Sixers Jumaine Jones, Larry Hughes, Reggie Evans, Joe Smith, Xavier Silas and Lee Nailon are among those eligible for the draft.

Other draft entrants include (in alphabetical order): Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Marcus Banks, Keith Bogans, Earl Boykins, Derrick Byars, Josh Childress, Brian Cook, Ndudi Ebi, Steve Francis, Kendall Gill, Donte Greene, Shane Heal, Mike James, Ivan Johnson, Voshon Lenard, Rashad McCants, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Lawrence Moten, Ronald "Flip" Murray, Andre Owens, Smush Parker, Jamario Moon, Ruben Patterson, Isaiah "J.R." Rider, Eddie Robinson, four-time All-Star Latrell Sprewell, DeShawn Stevenson, Mike Sweetney, Etan Thomas, Hakim Warrick and James White.

How the rosters currently stand:

3's Company: Allen Iverson (captain, player-coach), DerMarr Johnson (captain)

Ball Hogs: Brian Scalabrine, Player X, Rick Barry (coach)

Ghost Ballers: Captains Mike Bibby (captain), Ricky Davis (captain), George Gervin (coach)

Killer 3s: Chauncey Billups (captain), Stephen Jackson (captain), Charles Oakley (player-coach)

Power: Corey Maggette (captain), Cuttino Mobley (captain), Clyde Drexler (coach)

Three-Headed Monsters: Rashard Lewis (captain), Jason Williams (captain), Gary Payton (coach)

Trilogy: Kenyon Martin (captain), Al Harrington (captain), Rick Mahorn (coach)

Tri-State: Jermaine O’Neal (captain), Bonzi Wells (captain), Julius Erving (coach)

The BIG3 was founded by Ice Cube and Jeff Kwatinetz. It will kick off June 25 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Sixers 2016-17 player evaluation: T.J. McConnell

Sixers 2016-17 player evaluation: T.J. McConnell

T.J. McConnell

Position: Point Guard

Status for 2017-18: Guaranteed -- $1,471,382

McConnell in 2016-17
Entering his second season as an undrafted free agent signing out of Arizona, T.J. McConnell was expected to be at the back of the Sixers' bench in 2016-17. With the team's signing veterans in free agency for the first time in a while, McConnell projected as the third-string point guard behind newcomers Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez. If Ben Simmons was healthy, he could have been even further down the depth chart.

Obviously, things didn't go as planned. Bayless played just three games and Rodriguez dealt with injuries at times. That opened the door for McConnell, who moved into the starting lineup in mid-December. He seized the chance and held on for dear life, turning into a solid starting point guard and one of the bright spots on an improving Sixers team.

McConnell played all but one game this season and started 51 games, increased by 32 starts from 2015-16. In 26.3 minutes per game, McConnell averaged 6.9 points, 6.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals. He struggled from three-point range, yet his field goal percentage stayed about the same year-over-year (47 to 46.1 percent). The 25-year-old point guard became a leader and a spark to the team, leading the team's impressive January alongside Joel Embiid. He also provided perhaps the moment of the season with his game-winner against the Knicks (see below) and proved to be unshaken in the clutch.

The Arizona product had 13 games with at least 10 assists, including 17 in Boston in early January. He averaged 9.3 assists per game in January and finished the month with five double-digit assist performances in six games. McConnell impressed enough that, according to reports, the Cavaliers inquired about his availability in hopes of making him Kyrie Irving's backup on the defending champions. 

Signature games
There were plenty this season, so I'll offer two. 

First up is his first start. Bayless, Rodriguez and Joel Embiid were all out when the Sixers traveled to Detroit on Dec. 11. McConnell rose to the occasion with 12 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, just an assist shy of a triple-double in the Sixers' 97-79 win.

And the other signature game would, of course, be against the Knicks. He took just six shots and had eight points on Jan. 11 but his final shot was a big one, his game-winning jumper as time expired to beat the Knicks, 98-97. He also had seven rebounds, six assists and two steals in the home victory and produced a fist-pump for the ages in celebration at the end of the game.

Looking ahead to 2017-18
McConnell established himself as an NBA point guard in 2016-17, but he probably won't retain his starting role to begin 2017-18.

With Simmons and Bayless returning to health, McConnell will likely be relegated back to the bench, albeit in a larger role than the start of last season. His performance from his first start to the end of the year earned him a rotation spot assuming the Sixers don't spend big on one of the top point guards on the free agent market.

McConnell also has developed strong chemistry with each returning player for the Sixers, so he can fit in seamlessly as the point guard for any lineup. How he works alongside Simmons remains to be seen. His lack of three-point shooting could mean that he is forced to the bench when Simmons is in.

On McConnell
"The point guard in Philly, the kid from Arizona. He's a pure point guard, he makes their team better. ... [McConnell's] kind of overmatched in a lot of ways but he's smart, he's tough and he plays. He's a pure point guard, and there's still tons of value in that."

- Former MVP point guard Steve Nash

"He's a (Pittsburgh) Pennsylvania kid that nobody gave a chance and tripped on an opportunity with a program that's in the rebuild mode on my 17th point guard. You go through that massive volume of point guards and you have somebody that doesn't go away. … There's an injury, and so you give him the ball. He seized the moment, grabbed an opportunity and he ran hard with it. The preparation prior to that opportunity happening for him was A-plus. … To see him be rewarded, it's a great story."

- Sixers head coach Brett Brown after his shot vs. the Knicks

"He certainly represents everything that this organization represents and this city represents in terms of grit and tenacity and that fierceness that we’re looking for."

- Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo