Philadelphia 76ers

Holiday has stiff competition for all-star nod

985833.jpg

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

NBA Notes: Bulls bring back Doug Collins as special adviser

usa-doug-collins.jpg
USA Today Images

NBA Notes: Bulls bring back Doug Collins as special adviser

CHICAGO -- Doug Collins has returned to the Chicago Bulls. Just not on the sideline this time around.

The rebuilding Bulls hired Collins on Tuesday to serve senior adviser of basketball operations, providing "an expert resource" for the front office and coaching staff.

Collins will report directly to executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson. General manager Gar Forman and coach Fred Hoiberg remain in their jobs.

"Doug will not be coaching," Paxson said. "Doug will not be a decision maker. None of the roles have changed."

While no one is getting fired at this point, Collins becomes another set of eyes for an organization that finally committed to a full rebuild after taking a patchwork approach in recent years (see full story).

Pelicans: Cunningham agrees to contract
A person familiar with the situation says the New Orleans Pelicans and forward Dante Cunningham have agreed on a one-year contract worth $2.3 million.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday on condition of anonymity because the agreement, which was first reported by Yahoo, has not been announced.

The 6-foot-8 Cunningham spent the past three seasons in New Orleans, where he averaged 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in about 25 minutes per game last season.

The 30-year-old Cunningham has spent eight seasons in the NBA, beginning with Portland, which selected him in the second round of the 2009 draft out of Villanova.

Cunningham could start for New Orleans at small forward in a lineup that would feature DeMarcus Cousins at center, Anthony Davis at power forward, Rajon Rondo at point guard and Jrue Holiday at shooting guard.

Heat: Dragic retiring from Slovenia team
LJUBLJANA, Slovenia -- NBA guard Goran Dragic has confirmed he is retiring from the Slovenia team that won the European basketball championship.

Dragic says on Tuesday, "I achieved what I wanted, the gold medal, and this is the right time to bid farewell."

The 31-year-old Dragic led Slovenia with 35 points to beat Serbia 93-85 in the final on Sunday in Istanbul, earning the MVP award.

He says Slovenia's qualifying campaign for the 2019 world championship will start in November, and it would be impossible for him to play due to his professional duties with the Miami Heat in the NBA.

Tens of thousands of jubilant Slovenes greeted the new European champions on Monday in the capital of Ljubljana.

Give and Go: Who will be the Sixers' sixth man?

Give and Go: Who will be the Sixers' sixth man?

With training camp starting next week, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are CSNPhilly.com Sixers Insider Jessica Camerato and producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we discuss who should be the Sixers' sixth man going into the 2017-18 season.

Camerato
This role has become a hot topic since the Sixers finally have the pieces to put together a consistent starting five and establish a go-to sixth man. This summer I wrote an article on the starting lineup in which I projected Robert Covington to start and Dario Saric to come off the bench as the sixth man. The Sixers need Covington’s defensive presence at small forward and Ben Simmons likely will start at power forward while running the floor. Not every reader agreed in the comments section and the Saric-as-a-starter sentiment was echoed on social media. 

I still see Saric as the best fit for sixth man. This role is often filled by a starting-caliber player. Saric had 36 starts as a rookie, including all 25 games in which he played after the All-Star Break. Brett Brown wants the Sixers’ sixth man to be on the court to end games. Saric averaged more minutes (7.1) in the fourth than any other quarter last season. 

The key would be getting Saric to buy in to being the sixth man. Saric worked his entire career to be the best player he could be. He is his own toughest critic and became visibly disappointed when he had letdowns last season. There is a shift in mindset going from a starter to the first player off the bench. Saric can thrive in this role, but first he has to embrace it and not looking at it as a demotion. The sixth man can be just as valuable, if not more, than a starter. 

Haughton
With a widely projected starting lineup of Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, JJ Redick, Markelle Fultz and Simmons, the Sixers’ sixth man would appear to be a lock as Dario Saric. After all, Saric is a strong all-around player and coming off an impressive rookie season.

However, that starting five may force Brett Brown to go in a different direction with his first man off the bench.

Sure, Brown’s opening group may have a lot of firepower, but it lacks a necessity of legitimate NBA teams: a proven floor general. With Fultz and Simmons in the backcourt, the Sixers have two players that have yet to take part in an NBA regular-season game. They also will be trying to adjust to playing off the ball (Fultz) and running the team as a full-time point guard (Simmons).

That’s why I believe Brown may opt to go with Jerryd Bayless as his first reserve to combat the expected growing pains of his rookie backcourt. Bayless didn’t exactly wow Sixers fans by playing in just three contests a season ago because of torn ligaments in his wrist, but the veteran still has 513 career games under his belt (29 in the postseason) and knows how to play both guard positions.

It may not be the preferred pick, but Bayless may be the necessary choice as sixth man if the Sixers hope to achieve their goals in the upcoming campaign.

Hudrick
I know it doesn't please some Sixers fans that Saric seems destined to come off the bench, but really, it's a great sign.

Saric has proven to be a good NBA player after a strong rookie campaign, but think about it. This roster suddenly has talent. People are getting giddy and talking playoffs. Do you know what playoff teams have? Good players coming off the bench. It's not a knock on Saric as much as it's a testament to how talented this roster has become.

I will say that Matt's idea of using Bayless as the team's sixth man is interesting. Brown puts such a heavy emphasis on the point guard position. He's referred to it as the hardest position to play in the NBA. And now he's turning the keys over to a 6-foot-10 player that's never truly played the position. 

In the end, I'm going Saric. He should come in and dominate most team's second units offensively. Plus his grit and energy are perfect for the role. The Sixers just have to hope he embraces it.