Jrue Holiday Making All-Star Statement at Perfect Time for Bynum-Less Sixers

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2013

January 1, 2013;  Los Angeles, CA, USA;    Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash (10) guards Philadelphia 76ers point guard Jrue Holiday (11) in the first half of the game at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia 76ers point guard Jrue Holiday is having himself a nice little week, thanks to a pair of games that have pushed him squarely into the Eastern Conference All-Star picture.

On Jan. 1 against the Los Angeles Lakers, Holiday poured in 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting and dished out 10 assists against just one turnover. To be fair, it seems like every point guard worth his salt manages to put up big numbers against the Lakers' porous perimeter defense.

But not every point guard earns the praise of L.A.'s two-time MVP after the fact.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Steve Nash was awfully impressed with Holiday's play, and particularly by the way he makes the Sixers a much tougher matchup than they are without him. Said Nash:

Obviously they're a different team with him. We beat them at their place by 20 without him. I think he gives them obviously a very talented player but he also makes guys around him better.  He makes it more difficult for you to guard [Evan] Turner, [Jason] Richardson and the other guys on the perimeter. He's a terrific player. He's an All-Star this year.

Not surprisingly, Nash knows what he's talking about. The Sixers really are a vastly different team with Holiday than they are without him. They’ve lost all four games Holiday has missed this season.

Perhaps spurred on by the praise from his peers, Holiday followed up his stellar performance against the Lakers with his first triple-double of the season against the Phoenix Suns on Jan. 2. Although they came in a losing effort, Holiday's 16 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds were still extremely impressive.

Especially considering he got those numbers while playing 39 minutes on the second night of a back-to-back set.

Although we're focusing on Holiday's past couple of games here, it bears mentioning that he has dished out at least nine assists in each of his last six contests. Quite obviously, the Sixers depend on him to do just about everything on offense while playing heavy minutes and chasing around the other team's best guard.

Big efforts under difficult circumstances have been a hallmark of Holiday’s year, though, as he’s been asked to shoulder more than his share of the load in just his fourth season. With Andrew Bynum's return nowhere in sight, Holiday's recent brilliance serves as a beacon of hope in what's been an otherwise disappointing campaign for the Sixers.

Thanks to his solid play, the Sixers are still hanging right on the edge of the Eastern Conference playoff picture in a tie for the eighth spot with the Boston Celtics.

And when it comes to his own thoughts on his recent All-Star push, Holiday told Bob Cooney of Philly.com the following: “People ask me if I would like to make the All-Star team. I mean, seriously, who wouldn’t?”

Despite his worthy credentials and desire to make the NBA’s February exhibition, Holiday currently ranks eighth among Eastern Conference guards in the most recent polling results. For Holiday, who's been carrying the Sixers all season, it's got to be tough to stomach the lack of appreciation he's getting from voters.

But if he keeps tossing up stat lines like he has recently, there's a chance he could continue to keep the Sixers afloat without Bynum.

That'd go a long way toward elevating the profile of Holiday's team and his own All-Star chances.