Sixers player evaluation: Jrue Holiday

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Sixers player evaluation: Jrue Holiday

Note: Over the next couple of weeks we will recap the Sixers’ season by evaluating each member of the roster.

Jrue Holiday

Position: Point guard

Status: Headed into the first year of a four-year, $41 million contract extension

Signature game of 2012-13
Holiday scored on a layup with 1.1 seconds left in the Jan. 18 game against the Toronto Raptors at the Wells Fargo Center to force overtime and lead the Sixers back from a 19-point deficit. In overtime, Holiday scored all 12 of the Sixers’ points in a 108-101 victory to cap off a 33-point, 14-assist effort.

From Jan. 18:
There hasn’t been much Jrue Holiday hasn’t shown during his breakout, All-Star caliber season. In fact, there aren’t too many folks around the NBA who aren’t aware of the Sixers’ point guard’s talent.

“Everybody knows how good Jrue Holiday is,” Sixers head coach Doug Collins said.

In Friday night’s 108-101 comeback victory over the Toronto Raptors in overtime at the Wells Fargo Center, Holiday put his entire game on display and made his best case for an All-Star bid.

Holiday tied a career-high with 33 points on 13-for-23 shooting to go with 14 assists to lead the Sixers back from a 19-point second-half deficit. Better yet, it was Holiday’s layup with 1.1 seconds left in the fourth quarter to force overtime and give the Sixers their first share of the lead all game.

However, he saved the real fireworks for overtime.

In the extra frame, Holiday scored all 12 of the Sixers’ points, converting on a three-pointer and three foul shots as they rolled to just their second win of the season when trailing after three quarters.

Holiday in 2012-13
It was the quintessential breakout year that many predicted for Holiday. On opening night, Holiday signed a four-year contract extension, he earned his first All-Star berth and at age 22, became an undisputed leader of the Sixers.

There’s more: Holiday was fourth in the NBA in assists with eight per game and 10th in minutes per game with nearly 38.

There were also some learning experiences for Holiday, too. He was second in the league with 3.7 turnovers per game, and by the end of the season, Holiday admitted he was fatigued. Chalk it up to all those minutes, the demanding position of point guard and the added responsibility taken on as the team captain.

Prospectus
After four years in the NBA, Holiday is only 22. He has improved every season he’s been in the league and the Sixers are expecting even more improvement from their All-Star. Not only was Holiday signed to a four-year extension that begins in 2013-14, but also Holiday will be the player the team builds around headed into the future.

“I think if you talk to Jrue, he’ll tell you he needs to work on his stamina and the mental toughness of going through the entire season,” coach Doug Collins said last week. “He told me the other day that after the All-Star break he hasn’t played as well. Playing all 82 and the demands of that position, the sky is still the limit for him.”

On Jrue Holiday
“I like him because he’s a big guard and he plays at his own tempo. A lot of guards get going too fast and they speed up, but Jrue plays at his own speed. He can get into the paint and he has that nice little shot over the smaller guards.”

-- Dorell Wright, Oct. 20, 2012

“When he’s not in the game you can feel it because the ball doesn’t move around as much. He’s our distributor and he’s the one who makes the plays. Sometimes the offense becomes stagnant without Jrue in the game.”

-- Thad Young, Nov. 25, 2012

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Nerlens Noel emerged from the trainer’s room in a red sweatshirt and made his rounds of handshakes and hugs. It would be his last time in the Sixers' training complex as a member of the team, marking the end of the longest-tenured player’s stay in Philadelphia.

The Sixers traded Noel to the Mavericks on Thursday for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a top-18 protected first-round pick, according to a source (see story). He went through a portion of practice and was removed from it because of the deal. 

Noel’s now former teammates had a strong reaction to his departure. 

“Nerlens, he’s my guy,” Joel Embiid said. “He’s been my best friend since I got to Philly and I’m happy for him. He wants to start. I think in Dallas he’s going to get the chance to start and they’re going to re-sign him and they’re going to pay him a lot of money. Here it was kind of hard for him to start unless they were starting us together. But I’m happy for him. He’s going to get the chance he wanted.”

Noel’s future with the Sixers had been in question for two years as he enters restricted free agency this summer. Last season, the team struggled to find a way for him and Jahlil Okafor, both true centers, to play together. This season, the logjam was magnified when Embiid made his debut and took over the starting role. 

Noel candidly spoke out about the overcrowding at the beginning of the season but that situation was sidetracked when he missed 23 games because of injury. Once he returned, he quickly was on the short end of minutes. 

“I need to be on the court playing basketball,” Noel said in mid-December. “I think I’m too good to be playing eight minutes. Like, no, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. That’s crazy. They need to figure this s--- out.”

The Sixers did figure out his role, later making him the defensive leader of the second unit as Okafor became the odd man out. The Sixers also considered the possibility of pairing Noel and Embiid in the starting lineup, as they did with Embiid and Okafor, but that experiment played out only over a handful of minutes. 

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Embiid said of not playing more alongside Noel. “I thought we should have tried that a little bit more. I think the few times we did, it actually looked pretty good offensively and defensively.”

Of the bigs, it seemed like Okafor would be the one moved at the deadline after being held out of two games because of trade talks. In the end, it was Noel as the one to go on Thursday. 

“He’s one of my favorite players here,” Dario Saric said. “He’s always ready for jokes, he’s always ready to enjoy every moment.” 

Noel was the only player remaining from Brown’s first season as head coach with the Sixers. Brown could not comment on the Noel trade because it was not official at the time he addressed the media. 

Ilyasova leadership missed
On Wednesday night the Sixers dealt Ersan Ilyasova to the Hawks for Tiago Splitter, a 2017 second-round pick and 2017 second-round pick swap rights. Even though Ilyasova played only 53 games for the Sixers, the veteran leader left his mark.

“He was a consummate pro,” Brown said. “He helped teach our young guys about that professionalism and helped contribute to our culture. He was good. You add those things up and we’re going to miss him.” 

Ilyasova’s departure affects those who played with him and behind him. Embiid credited Ilyasova for stretching the floor when they were in the starting lineup together. 

Saric, though, is perhaps the most impacted by the trade. Saric moved to the second unit when Ilyasova took over the starting role. He learned from his fellow international power forward, who helped him adjust to the NBA on and off the court. Saric is likely to get the nod as a starter. 

“For me, it’s hard,” Saric said. “I lost in Ersan some kind of mentor.” 

Brown also plans to play Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes at power forward at times, as well. If Covington slides over from small forward, Brown eyes Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Gerald Henderson and Nik Stauskas as players who could fill in at the three spot. 

The Sixers will resume activity on Friday morning for shootaround ahead of their game against the Wizards. They will approach that contest without familiar faces on the court. 

“I lost two good friends,” Saric said. “But this is the NBA. This is part of the business, part of the job.”

Joel Embiid unhappy with how Sixers handled injury updates

Joel Embiid unhappy with how Sixers handled injury updates

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Joel Embiid will miss the next four games and is slated to return March 3 against the Knicks in Philadelphia, so long as he is symptom-free. While Embiid wants to play as soon as possible, he’s just glad there is now a definitive timetable announced.

Prior to Thursday, the team had not announced a specific timeframe.

“I wasn’t too happy with the way it was kind of handled before,” Embiid said. “I saw the day-to-day part. I was told that I was going to miss at least two or three weeks. So I wasn’t happy with the way it was handled.

“I thought keeping my name out there was going to just like literally have people think about me all the time instead of just saying when I was going to be back. So I’m happy that they did that today and they said that I’m out for the next four games.”

Embiid suffered a left knee contusion on Jan. 22 against the Trail Blazers. He sat out three games and returned on Jan. 27 to play the Rockets. He has not played since then, sitting out the last eight games.

An MRI also revealed Embiid has a slight tear in his meniscus, which is not thought to be related to the contusion.

Embiid went through a full practice on Thursday for the first time, he estimated, in four or five weeks. (Wednesday’s practice was not intense.) According to the Sixers, they are encouraged by the progress Embiid showed but do not feel he is game-ready. Team doctors are holding him out the next four games to minimize the risk of aggravating his knee. In order for him to be cleared, Embiid has to be symptom-free.

Embiid had eyed a return on Friday against the Wizards because he was feeling well, he said, but he had some swelling on Thursday.

“No swelling, no pain, nothing,” Embiid said of his criteria to play.

Now the team -- and fans -- can move forward without daily questions of Embiid’s status.

“I think it’s good for everybody,” Brett Brown said. “For you all to understand, the people that buying a ticket to understand, for me as a coach to prepare my team that he’s not going to be here for four more games. I like that clarity. I’m fine with it. Obviously, you want him playing, but the mystery that surrounds that speculation I think is frustrating for people and we understand that.”

Embiid reiterated the patience aspect of the injury, noting he waited two years to rehab his foot and there is no need to rush his knee. Now everyone can be in the loop with his status.

“The end point is basically making sure I’m ready to play instead of just putting me out there,” Embiid said.