After Long Road Back, Jrue Holiday Looks Better Than Ever

Jrue Holiday’s New Orleans Pelicans career got off to a rough start. But after battling through injury and family trauma, he’s starting to round into form and look like the All-Star player New Orleans traded for in the summer of 2013.

Jrue Holiday is playing some of the best basketball of his NBA career.

Over the last 12 games, Holiday has put up 22.1 points, 8.5 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game while shooting 55.2 percent from the field and 41.4 percent from three.

During that span, no other player in the NBA has averaged those types of numbers.

Of course when in the lineup, Holiday has always been, if nothing else a solid two-way player.

But something is different this season.

For the first time since joining the New Orleans Pelicans, Holiday is finally completely healthy and the results have been noticeable.

In a career that started out with so much ascending promise, it has been anything but since Jrue Holiday reached peak All-Star status after just his fourth year in the league.

And after navigating through the long road of being traded, going through numerous injuries and helping his wife deal with one of life’s more difficult challenges, Jrue is seemingly finding his way back to the All-Star player he was.

At 22, Holiday had just completed the best year of his NBA career. He averaged career highs with 17.7 points and 8.0 assists (third in the league) during the 2012-13 NBA season, was selected to the All-Star team for the first time and signed a four-year, $41 million contract earlier in the year.

Holiday was the sole bright spot on a 76ers team that featured an uninspiring roster headed up by coach Doug Collins. The team went 34-48 during that 2012-13 season and missed the playoffs for the first time in three years.

But for Philly fans, Holiday represented hope in that they still possessed the centerpiece of the future — even if they were fully aware that a massive rebuild was on the horizon.

Enter newly hired general manager Sam Hinkie, tasked to orchestrate that massive rebuild while undoing the mess created by his predecessor, Tony DiLeo.

DiLeo, if you remember, was responsible for the now infamous Andrew Bynum trade that saw the 76ers give up Andre Iguodala, Maurice Harkless, Nikola Vucevic and a protected first-round pick for a talented yet injury ridden and unstable Bynum — who by the way, was on the last year of his deal and never actually suited up in any game for the franchise.

So once Hinkie took over a year later, it became clear that his main goal would be to recoup the assets lost in that trade and institute a strategy known as “the process.”

Unfortunately for Holiday, his fantastic season had now meant that he had become their most valuable trade asset.

Hinkie’s first move as head-honcho in Philly was a bold one. He immediately made a statement by shipping away the All-Star point guard he just inherited to the New Orleans Pelicans.

That $41 million contract signed by Holiday not even a year earlier was now wiped off the books. His well-earned All-Star status ended up netting Hinkie and the 76ers a young asset in Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-round pick.

However, what was the 76ers’ loss was supposed to become a gain for both Holiday and the Pelicans. Holiday was shipped to a better team while the Pelicans brought in Holiday with the intent on pairing the All-Star with their shiny new toy — budding superstar Anthony Davis.

Things didn’t work out that way for either party. Holiday missed 90 games in his first two seasons with the Pelicans due to a stress fracture and stress reaction in consecutive seasons.

Holiday’s third season with the team turned into a rehab year for the point guard. The plan was to ease Holiday back into the lineup last season.

He started the year on a minutes restriction and came off the bench a little more than a month into the season in an effort to help him find a rhythm and keep him fresh.

Unfortunately, Holiday would not escape the year injury free as he suffered a toe injury and an orbital fracture in his right eye late in the year; forcing him to miss 11 of the last 12 games and 17 overall on the year.

Sports injuries are tough. But life at times can hand you circumstances that outweigh your darkest moments on the basketball court.

For Holiday and his wife Lauren, a supreme athlete in her own right, that was unfortunately the case prior to the start of this season.

While pregnant with the couple’s first child,  a tumor was found in Lauren’s brain. It was deemed benign and a full recovery was expected if everything went right during her surgery — a small victory — but very troublesome news nonetheless.

So when Jrue announced that he would take some time off to be there for his wife in her time of need, no one blinked an eye because as he eloquently put it:

“My family comes before basketball. I’m obviously blessed to play this game and be in the position I am in, but my wife is the most important thing in the world to me. She comes before anything else.”

Holiday put his contract year on hold. He missed training camp as well as preseason and first 12 games of the regular season.

When he did return, it was easy to tell that during his time off he was working. He came back to the team in great shape and made an immediate impact with his presence.

The team won the first four games after his return to the lineup while Jrue averaged 16.3 points, 7.0 assists and shot 48 percent from the field in 25.6 minutes a game.

Now, Holiday looks to be about as healthy as he has been since being traded to the Pelicans in the summer of 2013.

He’s currently tearing up the league once again after working his way back from everything life has thrown his way and for it has come out on the other end not only a better player, but a better man.

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