April 16, 2011: Jrue Holiday, left, almost breaks big Z's ankles in Miami. Holiday most definitely has point guard handles.
What is Jrue Holiday’s natural position in the NBA? Good question. He’s multi-talented enough for me to ask it. What was the great Allen Iverson’s true spot in the starting lineup?
I’ll answer both burning questions before the column clock expires.
Like Holiday, Iverson (“The Answer") definitely possessed the quickness and ball-handling ability to play the point guard position. But, as NBA history has shown, having blazing speed isn’t necessary to be an effective point guard.
Much of a No. 1 guard’s success relies on coaching schemes and whether or not the player is placed in the right settings to succeed. Stubborn coaches rarely think outside the box.
Never one to be boxed in, Pat Riley knew a guy named Earvin Johnson should control the ball at all possible times. Under Riley’s leadership, the Lakers became Johnson’s show time.
Hold on to your seats and get your popcorn ready for the show I’m about to entertain you with. You see, what’s happening in Philadelphia is similar to what happened with the L.A. Lakers from 1979-83.
After then-coach Jack McKinney almost died in a bicycle accident late in 1979, Paul Westhead became the interim head coach. McKinney was Johnson’s first professional basketball coach. For whatever reason, Earvin didn’t like Westhead’s coaching style.
New owner Dr. Jerry Buss managed to smooth things over at first. Tensions further eased after the Lakers defeated the 76ers in the 1980 NBA Finals. In the sixth and clinching game, Johnson was allowed to jump center, and he went on to post one of the best performances ever seen in an NBA championship match.
The fact that the game was tape delayed and relatively few people saw it didn’t matter. It’s now available on DVD and pay television. Johnson's name and game took on monstrous proportions.
Six games into the following season (1981-82), the brash NBA sophomore nicknamed “Magic” demanded a trade because he couldn’t handle Westhead’s rule any longer. Dr. Buss replaced Westhead with Riley.
“Slick Pat” would soon make Magic the primary ball handler and help birth the Showtime era in Los Angeles. Johnson stood 6’8”-6’9” and looked like a giant bearing down on the league’s other point guards.
By orchestrating breakneck speed fast breaks, Magic and Riley revolutionized the point guard position. The situation sounds familiar. Like the 1980 championship Lakers, the Philadelphia 76ers have a new owner.
Also, while L.A. drafted Johnson No. 1 in 1979, the Sixers picked Evan Turner with the No. 2 pick in 2010.
Norm Nixon was the incumbent point guard in L.A., but he was traded prior to the 1983-84 season for Byron Scott of the San Diego Clippers. Buss and Riley had paved the way for Johnson to work his magic at point guard. The rest is NBA history.
Doug Collins was a member of the Philadelphia team, history buffs will recall, that lost to the Lakers in 1980. Modernists know Evan Turner coyly asked for more playing time in at least one postgame interview last season.
Collins was eventually forced to address Turner’s declining playing time. Holiday was Collins’ incumbent point guard, but Turner has point guard skills despite what some Philly fans stubbornly think.
Holiday was a shooting guard at UCLA. Darren Collison ran the point when they were teammates there, but Holiday was drafted at No. 17 and Collison at No. 21 (New Orleans) in 2009. Many fans of the Bruins felt Collison was the better point guard.
It seems the 76ers drafted Holiday because he was taller and younger than Collison. Turner, 22, is taller than Jrue, but Holiday is younger (21).
As a seasoned NBA guy, Riley drafted Dwyane Wade with the No. 5 pick in 2003. The position of combination guard has since taken on epic proportions. Allen Iverson was also very instrumental in furthering the epidemic.
In his prime, A.I. was much better at scoring than he was at passing, but he was underrated when it came to assists. His passes often looked awkward, but he was generally effective dishing to his teammates.
Phil Jackson created the sometimes awkward looking point-forward named Scottie Pippen. Thus, I’m sure Jackson would have inserted Turner into the role of primary ball handler in either Chicago or L.A.
Good NBA coaches maneuver to their team's strengths, and A.I. was needed to put the ball in the basket during the Larry Brown era in Philadelphia. Iverson was never one to like coming off the bench and for good reason.
Holiday previously came off the bench. I’m sure he’d be comfortable doing it again. It doesn’t mean he has to finish the game on the bench. See Manu Ginobili.
To me, Holiday fits the same role as Manu. Jrue’s three-point shot would need to improve, but he could be the next Andrew Toney in Philly with Evan Turner starting the game at point-guard-forward. Combo guard works for me.
That’s what Holiday is to me—a combination player more so than a pure point guard. Now, I hope I’ve made my point clear. If not, then you could be reading me with rose-colored glasses. Speaking of rose, is Derrick Rose a point guard or a shooting guard? He’s a guard and an NBA MVP.
If my coaching theory was adhered to, accolades could roll in for both Holiday and Turner, .
But, enough about me, I want to hear from you. This has been your friendly neighborhood award-winning cyber coach/writer signing off.