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

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric came into the NBA knowing his rookie season would be one of ups and downs. He would have successes based on his talent and struggle because of the newness of the league and matchups.

Saturday’s performance against the Celtics was one of those highlight nights. Saric scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, both tying career-highs, for his third double-double. He was efficient in his performance, playing 27 minutes off the bench in the Sixers' 107-106 loss.

“I thought that was his best game as a 76er,” Brett Brown said.

Saric had struggled the night before against the Magic. He barely made a dent in 16 minutes, posting just two points (1 for 5 from the field) without a single rebound. The poor showing was on his mind Saturday, as he got ready for the second game of the back-to-back. He went in early to get up extra shots, met with coaches, studied film and thought about the matchup throughout the day.

“I prepared a little bit more for this game,” Saric said. “After I have some bad rhythm of five or six, maybe, games. Now I concentrate more. I try to give my best, try to play my best, try to think before everything happens.”

Saric showed his aggressiveness in crunch time in the fourth quarter, when he scored seven points and five rebounds in eight minutes. He nailed a three to cut the Celtics' lead to 92-91 with 4:28 to play. Then with 1:09 remaining, Saric’s free throws cut the Celtics' lead to two points. On the other end of the court, he snagged the rebound off an Isaiah Thomas miss and scored a game-tying layup from Jahlil Okafor.  

“He played great,” Okafor said. “He’s working hard every day, getting used to the NBA process. It was good to see hard work paying off for him.”

Saric has been adjusting to new roles throughout the season. He was thrown into the starting power forward spot when Ben Simmons was injured, and then moved to the bench when the team acquired Ersan Ilyasova. On Saturday, Brown also played Saric at small forward in Robert Covington’s (knee) absence, a shift the Sixers may try again.

“He’s a good teammate,” Brown said. “He’s biding his time. He understands he’s a rookie. Incrementally, he’ll be given these opportunities. Tonight he did and he responded and you’re seeing continued growth.”

Saric still is early in his NBA career, and Saturday's showing was a game he can look back on and study for the rest of the season. 

“I feel like tonight … you’d walk away and say, ‘Shoot, that’s a hell of a player for playing 20 games in the NBA and he did what he just did against a hell of a team,’” Brown said. “I’m proud of what we saw all over the place from Dario.”

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

As part of their “Salute Saturday” series, the Sixers honored the 1966-67 championship team at halftime of their 107-106 loss the Celtics on Saturday.

Fifty years after winning the title, the success of the squad (which went 68-13 in the regular season) still resonates with those representing the Sixers today. After all, they are the group Wilt Chamberlain described as “the best team ever.” 

“It’s just part of the history of this city and the organization,” said Brett Brown, who has established a relationship with Billy Cunningham through practice visits and emails. “There was a toughness with that team that he personified and the city sort of reflects. It’s stuff you hear me talk about all the time how you want our team to reflect the spirit of the city. That team did it.”

Prior to their tribute ceremony, members of the team reflected on their run in which they beat the San Francisco Warriors for the title. 

On Wilt Chamberlain
“Wilt was such a dominant figure, not only as a basketball player, but he’s almost bigger than the game,” Matt Goukas said. “He played so well, he was such a good team player – he started really passing the ball right around that time --and that enabled great scorers like Hal (Greer) and Billy and Chet Walker to do their thing, and Wilt was very happy to give them that leeway.”.

On fond memories
“It was a team that we played well together and we lived as a family and that’s what made it so good for us," Greer said. "A lot of fun, a lot of fun. We missed the next year, but 68-13 is not bad at all.”

“It’s hard to forget a situation like that where we had such a terrific team and the season went so quickly, we won so many games and then of course winning a championship,” Goukas said. “As a first year player I said, ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be, I guess.’ But of course I never won another championship as a player, but we had such a terrific group of guys and true professionals that for me as a rookie, Billy Melchionni as a rookie, we really benefited from guys like Hal Greer, Wally Jones and Harry Costello, they really showed us the way.”

On team chemistry
“It was very difficult times when you look at the sixties from a social aspect,” Cunningham said. “Martin Luther King was killed the following year we won the championship. Race relationships weren’t the best. And this time, which was just about half black-half white, I’m not even sure, it was never an issue. That’s the beauty I think of being on a team you know getting to know people, you judge them as an individual and nothing more than that.”

“I think it was our coach Alex Hannum, for one (that kept the team together),” Greer said. “And of course the big guy. He held us together most of the time, he could rebound, play defense, do it all.”