Holiday has stiff competition for all-star nod

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Holiday has stiff competition for all-star nod

Nineteen and nine, said Thad Young when asked why Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday should be an all-star for the Eastern Conference this season.

Frankly, Youngs assessment of what the conference coaches will most prominently see when they submit their ballots on Wednesday for the All-Star reserves will speak the loudest. After all, with averages like 19.4 points and 9.0 assists per game, Holidays case should already be made.

His scoring average and assists are second among the point guards in the Eastern Conference with the leader in assists, Rajon Rondo, already voted in as a starter by the fans.

So that should do it, right?

Not so fast, says Holiday.

Even though being an all-star would be awesome, it would feel weird to me being an all-star and just losing, Holiday said. I think winning is way more important than all the accolades. Winning and being better as a team would be way better than individual accolades.

Holidays answer, of course, is the correct one. Even Sixers coach Doug Collins says Holiday will face a difficult task in securing an All-Star berth because the teams 17-23 record has it 3 games outside of the last playoff spot in the East (see story).

Besides, Collins said, there are plenty of other point guards just as deserving of the reserve spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team.

Really?

With Rondo already voted in and Derrick Rose still working toward a return from knee surgery, Holiday has a better than average chance to make the team. ...

Or at least he should have a strong case to earn the berth in comparison to the other point guards in the Eastern Conference.

Heres a look at Holidays competition amongst the guards in the Eastern Conference.

Kyrie Irving, Cleveland
23.1 ppg, 5.7 apg, 40 percent 3P

As one of the brightest young stars in the game, Irving kind of has to make it. After all, Irving is third overall in the Eastern Conference in scoring, and his player efficiency rating (PER), a per-minute rating of a player's performance, is third (21.81) amongst all guards in the East.

Where it works against Holiday: Aside from his superior scoring and PER numbers, Irving plays for a losing team. The Eastern Conference cant have a reserve backcourt with players from teams well below .500, can they?

Monta Ellis & Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee
Ellis: 18.8 ppg, 5.4 apg; Jennings: 18.6 ppg, 5.8 apg
Its been a weird season for the Bucks. Even though they are just three games off the pace in the Central and are solidly in seventh place in the East, coach Scott Skiles resigned with not-so favorable reviews from a few of his ex-players. Meanwhile, Jennings is headed for an offseason where he can be a restricted free agent and Ellis can opt out of his contract.

And yet the Bucks are winning.

Credit the double point-guard offense and the emergence of Larry Sanders for that as the Bucks are seemingly taking one last run with this group.

Where it works for Holiday: The Bucks tandem in the backcourt is averaging more that 37 points and 11 assists per game, but which player is the most deserving of the All-Star selection? Moreover, which players stats is most hurt by the other player?

Deron Williams, Brooklyn
17.0 ppg, 7.7 apg

Williams has been in the past two Olympics for the U.S. and the last three All-Star games. And though the Nets (24-16) are winning, Williams numbers are down a bit as he has shared production in the backcourt with Joe Johnson.

Still, there are some players that end up on All-Star teams because of reputation and history and that could work in Williams favor when the Eastern Conference coaches submit their ballots this week.
Where it works for Holiday: Williams doesnt think he should be an All-Star this season. I just think there's people playing better than me, Williams told reporters. Plus, Williams has added to his reputation as a coach killer when Avery Johnson was fired in December after the point guard complained about the Nets offense.

Other candidates worthy of consideration
Kemba Walker, Charlotte; Jose Calderon, Toronto; Kyle Lowry, Toronto; Jameer Nelson, Orlando; George Hill, Indiana; Raymond Felton, New York.

Frankly, there has not been any other player in the Eastern Conference more important to his team than Holiday has been to the Sixers. With Andrew Bynum not yet ready to play, Holiday and Oklahoma Citys Russell Westbrook are the only players in the NBA averaging at least 18 points and eight assists a game.

In fact, without Holiday in four games this season, the Sixers went 0-4 and were outscored by 52 points. Indeed, the only reason the Sixers have had a chance this season has been because of Holiday.

He's been carrying us, Young said. We have to come up to help him out because the level that he's playing at is insane.
E-mail John R. Finger at jfinger@comcastsportsnet.com

Loss to Warriors leaves Brett Brown pondering NBA championship ingredients

Loss to Warriors leaves Brett Brown pondering NBA championship ingredients

The Golden State Warriors are the definition of the new NBA.

They have multiple superstars, play a fast-paced and free-flowing style, defend well and shoot a lot of three-pointers. They make a lot of those threes too.

Every team outside of Cleveland would love to have the components of their roster (the Cavaliers probably wish they had some of those pieces as well).

Count Sixers head coach Brett Brown among the admirers.

"For them to rank No. 1 in so many offensive and defensive areas -- and you should probably hear that louder than the offense because that's what we all think when we think of the Golden State Warriors' roster -- is just daunting," Brown said. "You pick your poison and you try to find ways that you think can put you in the best position to go steal a win and it's hard to find an area of weakness. They really hit both sides of the box offense and defense."

That was before the Warriors flexed their defensive muscle. After Golden State limited the Sixers to 45.7 percent shooting from the field, 29.4 percent shooting from three-point range and forced them into 23 turnovers on Monday night, Brown had even more appreciation for the NBA's best team.

"I felt the most obvious thing, to me sitting there coaching against it in relation to how good they are, was the defense and that they can switch everything," Brown said after the Sixers' 119-108 loss (see Instant Replay). "They're all so long and they can just switch stuff so that the game is always in front of them. They don't scramble much. They're not in rotation much. You coach against that during the game in real time, I felt that more than I did their offensive brilliance."

Still, even Brown admitted the new-age NBA is all about offense and the Warriors have it in bunches. Despite struggling with their shooting all game (44.9 percent from the field, 20.7 percent from three), the Dubs got enough scoring when they needed it against the Sixers. That was mainly provided in the form of former league MVP Kevin Durant, who had a game-high 27 points.

"They get another really amazing ingredient. They just go up another level," Brown said of the Warriors' addition of Durant. "It's just adding to something that they were great at to begin with."

"It's scary to think they can shoot much better," T.J. McConnell said.

The Sixers don't have anywhere close to that level of firepower offensively. For them to compete against the NBA's juggernauts, they need to play fast and share the ball -- a couple of the things they can realistically borrow from the Warriors.

"We kind of try to model our team after how they move the ball, how they play together and not have too much isolation ball," Jahlil Okafor said of the Sixers, who had 24 assists on 37 made field goals. "They're one of the best teams in the league at sharing the ball and they showed that tonight."

They sure did. Golden State assisted on 31 of its 40 made field goals. 

Combine that with a breakneck pace, and it's just two of the ingredients that make the Warriors so special. 

Brown feels like he is starting to get that mentality with his Sixers. The team has progressed in both areas as the season has progressed and its now fifth in the league in pace with 100.8 possessions per game and ninth in assists a night with 23.6.

"The two things that stand out most to me that we have spent time on is we're No. 1 in the NBA when we turn people over and we run out of it," the coach said. "Our pace has been excellent. I'm proud of the improved pace. I hope that when you have a coach and a sports science program that comes in from Day 1, and we've talked about this, where we said, 'You're going to be in the best shape of your life, you're going to be in career-best fitness.' The quick sentence after that is the reward is we're going to run. You can't say then that we're going to walk it up the floor. That's not who we are. Our pace has been relentless lately. We're proud of our pace. 

"We are No. 2 in the NBA on assist percentage, where we really pass the ball. If you look and judge how we score, it's not like we give it to T.J. and watch him break everybody down and go to work. We need collectively to move the ball. If we don't have that team stuff, we don't have what lots of NBA teams have -- the iso guys, the NBA All-Stars, somebody that can create their own shot -- it's just not who we are. Not one of them, especially when you start taking out Joel (Embiid). The pace of which we do things on offense and the fact that we share the ball, we move each other, we move the gym, those things are all we have to get those 100-plus points."

The Sixers reached the 100-point mark but still suffered a loss because they don't have the requisite stars to take over when things bog down. With Embiid and No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons both on the shelf (see story), Brown can only dream about when he'll have topflight talent to take the Sixers' scheme to the next level.

"In different weak moments, you get a little bit frustrated," Brown said. "But when you really sort of look at your purpose of trying to take some punches and hits in order to move the program forward -- I'm not 30 years old -- I'm fine. I really believe in what we're doing and that the more this thing shakes out and plays out, I believe it more and more. I think we're starting to build a culture and we're starting to build an attitude and a system behind the scenes that can absorb talent, that can absorb high draft picks and healthy Ben Simmons and healthy Joel Embiids."

For now, Brown will have to settle for seeing that top tier of basketball from afar. And as far as he's concerned, he just witnessed the best in the business (see story).

"What's it take to win a championship? That's all I think about," Brown said of what he learns from watching elite teams like the Warriors. "What's it really take? How do you beat that team four times? What's it really take? What's the future of our game? What's it look like in 2020, 2025? We've talked about this. Personally, I see it. I think, clearly, I could be wrong. You're seeing a bunch of do-all players that are long and can switch out on everything and shoot a lot of threes, play with speed, tenacity. They don't miss a beat. There's not really a weakness here.

"As you're looking at it, you're looking at what's it take to beat them? We've had heavyweights come into this building from San Antonio to Cleveland to teams in the East with the Celtics and Toronto. That's a different beast."

"You project it out. You wonder, 'How do you get to that level? Who do we have we think that can play in that game? What do you feel like you need to draft and grow? What do you need to go purchase -- free agent.' All that. That's all you think about. That's the holy grail, what they have. That is the king, in my opinion, in our league as we speak, so you're always wondering how does that work for us?"

Sixers draw high praise from Warriors after loss to NBA leader

Sixers draw high praise from Warriors after loss to NBA leader

BOX SCORE

The Warriors are the blueprint of a total team in the NBA. They have a star-studded starting lineup and a top sixth man with the positional versatility that creates hard-to-combat matchups.

Yet, as the Warriors notched their 50th win of the season, 119-108, in a collaborative effort against the Sixers, they gave credit to the potential they see in their opponent, even when Brett Brown didn't have his key pieces on the court Monday (see Instant Replay).

"They play hard," Stephen Curry said. "They have some talent to work around. Hopefully they have some consistency with their roster going forward and getting guys healthy. One thing about them, you've got to compliment their energy and effort and fight every night they play."

Facing the Warriors with a full squad is challenging enough. The Sixers did it shorthanded without Joel Embiid, who is out indefinitely with a left knee contusion (see story). They also are less than a week removed from trading starting power forward Ersan Ilyasova and the defensive-minded Nerlens Noel.

"You've got to give this team a lot of credit," Draymond Green said. "They're going to be really, really, really good. I mean, they're missing Embiid and Ben Simmons and they're really on their way."

With 10 available players, including Justin Anderson, who has had just one shootaround to actually get a run in with the team, the Sixers fought until the final buzzer sounded. Dario Saric led the Sixers with 21 points and seven assists, while also collecting seven rebounds. Gerald Henderson scored 16 and both Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes added 15 (see feature highlight). Covington also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.

"They play the right way," Klay Thompson said. "They made it tough on us tonight. I'm excited to see their team when Embiid and Simmons are healthy. It should be a scary frontcourt, and with Saric. They're heading in the right direction. They'll only get better this June because they have some high picks. It's a bright future in Philly."

The Sixers held the Warriors to 6 for 29 three-point shooting (20.7 percent), including an 0-for-11 outing by Curry. This was the third time this season and only the 37th time in his career Curry missed all of his three-point attempts.

"I think he had an off night," Brown said. "I think at times we got lucky with them as a team. They didn't shoot it the way the team normally would shoot it. Some of it is I give our guys credit."

Curry took his uncharacteristic performance, which included a pair of air-balls, in stride.

"The weatherman said it was a low-pressure system that was coming and I forgot to adjust," Curry said. "One thing, [I] don't ever get down on myself. Obviously that's why I got 11 of them up and not make one. You still have confidence the next one's going in."

Still, the Warriors turned to team basketball to pull away with the win. While they struggled from long range, they found other ways to run up the scoreboard, including shooting 33 for 39 at the free throw line.

Kevin Durant led all players with 27 points to go with eight rebounds. Green recorded a 14-point, 11-assist double-double and six boards. Thompson scored 21 points and Zaza Pachulia added 16. And at the end of the night, Curry still finished with 19 points in spite of his three-point woes.

"We've been doing this for a while together now and just try to find ways to get it done," Green said. "Obviously you've got to do a lot more on the defensive end to get stops, and try to create more offense. I think it was a good effort from everybody tonight to chip in."

Added Curry: "For us to still have the moxie to withstand that and still pretty much have the lead the whole game and allow our defense to get us a win tonight was kind of our M.O."

The Warriors are a perennial title contender thanks to their balanced roster and depth of weapons. The Sixers are in the beginning stages of working toward that goal. After Monday's game, the NBA's strongest example of "team" appreciated the direction in which Sixers are moving.

"Putting this franchise back together," Green said, "it's amazing to see."