Jrue Holiday is all about ball.
The kid, and that’s still what he is, is sponsored by adidas, and after games he’s often wearing the three stripes. Maybe a sporty hoodie with jeans or a sweater with name-brand kicks.
What Holiday has yet to adopt, like so many in the NBA do, is the high-end fashion sense that transforms a player from gym rat to polished banker.
You almost expect Holiday to leave the arena with a ball under his arm, which you can imagine is how you’d find him most summer days in Southern California.
Holiday is the 76ers’ starting point guard, a 20-year-old caught between two worlds: the uphill battle faced by most lower-first-round picks, and the bright future this organization has claimed is his destiny.
On Wednesday, when the Sixers open the regular season against the Miami Heat, Holiday’s public revelation will begin.
But for Holiday, the science project began in May.
“We get in the lab. That’s what we call it,” said Jason Martin, Holiday’s trainer-at-home. “We experiment, and we’re trying to create a monster. We’re mad scientists.”
After the Sixers’ season ended on April 14 – they finished 27-55, well out of the playoffs – Holiday took a month off. (“He does too much,” Martin said. “We actually have to shut him down after the season, mandatory, tell him he can’t do anything for a month.”) When his ban was lifted, Holiday had two goals for the off-season.
1. Become more explosive and develop a go-to move.
“You see guys like Rajon Rondo, John Wall, Derrick Rose; these guys are fast, quick, explosive, can get up off the floor,” Holiday said. “Last year I wasn’t like that.”
“He didn’t feel he had it as much last year, trying to get by people,” Martin said.
2. Develop a winning mind-set.
“Mentally, last year was tough for me, my rookie year, playing off and on,” said Holiday, whom the Sixers selected with the No. 17 pick of the 2009 NBA draft. “The year for me, collectively, wasn’t a good year. Mentally coming in with a winning mind-set, that I’m going to come here and try to take over and try to piece it together and make the playoffs.”
Holiday averaged 8.0 points and 3.8 assists a game in easily becoming the highlight – “At least we get to watch Jrue develop” was an oft-heard sentiment – of a disastrous 2009-10 season.
“We listened to what Jrue wanted to do because he’s really in tune with himself,” Martin explained.
The solution to developing Holiday’s explosiveness was training with former Olympic gold medal sprinter Maurice Greene, which is a little like needing driving lessons and calling Dale Earnhardt Jr.
You can’t do any better.
or months, Holiday worked with Greene at the track at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, Calif.
“Basically he took me through a track workout, something that he went through,” Holiday said. “And now I don’t like track, just because of what he put me through.”
Quickly, Holiday developed a summer routine:
Get up in the morning to lift, and then get some shots up.
Meet Greene at the track, and then get some more shots up.
Later, depending on fatigue, heading to the gym at night and playing for two or three additional hours.
At first, Holiday didn’t notice a change in his explosiveness. He was working out with his brother, Justin, who plays for the University of Washington, and Tyler Honeycutt, a sophomore for UCLA.
“They can jump out of the gym,” Holiday said. “I’m just sitting there watching and like, ‘I suck.’ ” But then Holiday took a week off from lifting, rested his legs, and returned to the court. He knew he’d added spring when he could put it between his legs after taking off for a dunk.
“I was up there with them,” Holiday said, referring to Justin and Honeycutt.
uring a preseason game against the Toronto Raptors, in the final seconds of regulation, Holiday had the ball in his hands, out past the left wing. A big man came to set a pick-and-roll, but Holiday faded farther from the basket, eventually settling for a heaved three-pointer near the top of the key.
Watching that game-ending play, Martin thought Holiday would employ his new go-to move, which remains secret mostly for entertainment’s sake. (“I really haven’t brought it out yet . . . it’s in the pocket,” explained Holiday.) Holiday said he “should have” used it against the Raptors.
“I actually think about it a lot,” Holiday said, “but it’s going to happen.” He promised to point it out once it did.
Worse than not playing, and not knowing if you’ll play, is losing, and losing consistently. Trudging through 27-55 seasons could turn any basketball-loving gym rat into a money-loving banker: Just cash the check and get on the plane, what’s the point?
Instead, Holiday spent his summer in the gym with his family – father, mother, brothers, sister, Honeycutt, and Martin – playing basketball and having fun.
“We have the keys to a gym, and Jrue would give a call, ‘Let’s go, let’s do it,’ ” Martin said. “Jump up. When I say everybody, his father is right there. We’re all in the gym.” Sometimes those late-night sessions would start at 10 p.m., sometimes at midnight.
“We’d go, and we’d be in there for like three hours, just playing,” Holiday said. “That’s all we’ve done our whole life. Just do our workout and then start playing one-on-one and two-on-two.
“Most of us are little kids . . . we’re just out there playing, that’s all we’ve ever done. We stay up late anyways, might as well get some work done.”