If Jrue Holiday isn't already considered one of the elite point guards in the NBA today, then he's not far off. In his third season as a pro, Holiday finished fourth in the league in assists (8.0 per game) while averaging 17.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals.
All of which was good enough to send Holiday to Houston for the 2013 All-Star Game, but not enough to propel the Philadelphia 76ers to a third straight playoff berth. Of course, Philly's shortfall in the standings probably had as much to do with Andrew Bynum's absence as anything else.
Even then, the Sixers finished just four games out of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference, though coming close won't satisfy a competitor like Holiday. Bleacher Report recently spent some time with Holiday in his hometown of Los Angeles at an event for adidas, where we talked with him about his All-Star experience, his plans for next season and how far he's come since the 2009 draft.
BR: What was it like being at your first All-Star Game last season?
JH: My first All-Star Game was crazy. I really tried to take all of it in. They kind of pull you every which way. I guess as All-Stars, everybody wants to see you. It was my first one. I tried to listen to KG [Kevin Garnett]. Cool dude. Crazy, but cool dude.
I tried to share it with the other first-timers like Paul George and Kyrie Irving. But, really, just shared the whole process, watching the dunk contest, watching the three-point contest, doing the skills challenge. It was just really fun to see everybody come together just for this big moment.
BR: Did being there with all these other great players motivate you to work harder?
JH: It’s definitely motivating. This year, they had the jackets where they had the emblems on them with how many times they’d been to the All-Star Game and done something special, winning championships or whatever it was. I had one. You’d see KG with like 15 . You’d see Tim Duncan with 15. And it’s like, “Man, I want to do that.”
BR: What are your goals, for yourself and for your team, next season?
JH: Obviously, I want to improve every year. I think I’ve been progressively doing that.
I love the playoffs. I think that’s kind of what motivates you throughout the season because the season does get rigorous and it’s so long. But the playoffs is a whole ‘nother beast. I don’t think people really realize how fun and how great of an experience it is.
BR: Are there any particular aspects of your game that you’ve been working on for next season?
JH: Yeah, becoming more explosive and getting to the free throw line. I think that’s kind of what takes some of the regular guys to that next step. You see guys get to the line eight, nine times a game. That’s all I’d do.
BR: What’s your relationship like with the new management in Philly?
JH: They’re really active. They’re really proactive. They really communicate well as well. Obviously, me being here in the offseason and them being over there, we stay on the phone quite a bit.
BR: Is there anything specific you’d like to see them do this summer to improve the roster?
JH: I just think they’re bringing a lot of energy. I don’t think the team needs help. Fighting every game. Our management has obviously done a good job of bringing energy and bringing a lot of new things that Philly hasn’t seen.
BR: What was it like playing with your brother in Philly last season?
JH: It was obviously a blessing. It was kind of like I’d been doing it all my life, because I have been doing it my whole life. I was happy to see him out there. They got a couple pictures of us together that, obviously, we’ll have forever to show our kids and all that. It was pretty cool.
BR: Did you use getting passed over until the 17th pick in the 2009 draft as motivation to work hard toward success in the NBA?
JH: For sure. I was the last one in the green room, which I don’t think was embarrassing, but it made it that much more nerve-racking. Obviously, with teams that talk to you and say that, “We have a really good chance of taking you” and then they don’t take you, it’s kind of like “Ummm, okay, well next time I see you, I’m going to prove why you should’ve taken me.”