National Basketball Association
Jrue Holiday is over Bucks trade, sees Celtics as 'best situation to win'
National Basketball Association

Jrue Holiday is over Bucks trade, sees Celtics as 'best situation to win'

Updated Dec. 26, 2023 11:13 a.m. ET

LOS ANGELES – It was a scenario Jrue Holiday couldn't have imagined as a child. 

Holiday grew up in Los Angeles as a Lakers fan. He idolized Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant. He rooted for the purple and gold as they won NBA championships throughout his childhood and during his one season at UCLA from 2008-09.

But after a trade sent him to the Boston Celtics in October, the veteran All-Star guard in his 15th season found himself in a funny position this Christmas. He was playing for the team Lakers fans loathe, smack in the middle of the most storied rivalry in the league. (The Lakers and Celtics are tied for a record 17 championships and have met in the Finals a record 12 times.)

When asked if the situation was a bit funny, Holiday chuckled. 


"I think it was weird when I got traded to the Celtics being a fan of the Lakers growing up," Holiday told FOX Sports. "But I think the switch was really easy knowing the type of history the Celtics have is similar to the Lakers. It was always cool seeing the battles with Kobe and Shaq, Paul Pierce and [Kevin Garnett] and all those guys. But, now that I'm on this side, I'm super happy and excited."

Why wouldn't he be?

Holiday, who had 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in the Celtics' 126-115 win over the Lakers in one of the league's marquee games of the season on Monday, is now playing for a team that has the best record in the NBA at 23-6. 

[NBA Christmas Day: Lakers still searching for answers; Knicks found theirs in Jalen Brunson]

A winding path led him here, but Holiday couldn't be happier to now be in what he once considered enemy territory. 

Back in September, Holiday was blindsided by a blockbuster trade that sent him from Milwaukee to Portland as part of a deal for the Bucks to acquire Damian Lillard

Four days later, the Celtics paid a big price to acquire Holiday from the Trail Blazers, dealing Malcolm Brogdon, Robert Williams III and multiple first-round draft picks to get the two-time All-Star and five-time All-Defensive Team player. 

It was dizzying for Holiday, who acknowledged "it was a bit of a surprise" to be traded by the Bucks, with whom he won a championship in 2021.

But now, he's grateful things worked out this way. 

"I think probably since I got traded that this has been my best situation to win," Holiday told FOX Sports. "For where I am in my career and what I want to do and the goals I want to reach, I feel like this team is on the same path. So, this is definitely, in my opinion, the best situation."

Holiday, who is widely considered one of the top two-way guards in the league, is now playing alongside the longtime duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who are hungry to win their first championship after helping the Celtics reach the Finals in 2022 for the first time in 12 years and the Eastern Conference finals last season. 

When Holiday was traded to the Celtics, Tatum couldn't contain his enthusiasm. 

"For real, he was the first one to reach out about how excited he was," Holiday told FOX Sports. "Obviously for this opportunity. It was good to know that the best player on the best team reached out to me."

As for Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, he was overcome with mixed emotions at the time. While celebrating his team acquiring Lillard, he was also mourning the loss of Holiday.

Antetokounmpo reached out to Holiday too. 

"Just [said] that he loved me," Holiday recalled Antetokounmpo telling him. "That this is going to be different and it hurts. But the best of luck to me. I feel the same for him. Best of luck to him. 

"They've got a great player in Dame. And obviously Giannis is one of the top-three, top-five players in the world. So they always have a chance to win and be good. But now that I'm in a different green [jersey], it hits kinda close to home. I used to battle against the Celtics. And now, I'm going to be going against them [the Bucks]. 

Currently, the Bucks are nipping at the Celtics' heels with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference at 22-8. Holiday acknowledged that it would be interesting if the two teams met in the Eastern Conference finals. 

"It's definitely a strong possibility," Holiday told FOX Sports, though the Bucks have fallen short of their postseason goals the last two years, failing to get past the second round. "I feel like we're going to be there. Anything could happen."

This much is for sure: The Celtics are happy Holiday is on their side. 

"He just gives us another weapon," Tatum said. "He's just so dynamic. Just another guy out there that can dribble, shoot and pass the ball. He can create for himself and his teammates.

"And on defense, he's one of the best competitors in the league and he has been for a long time. He can guard the best player. He can guard the biggest player. He can guard the worst player and roam around and help everybody else out. He just does it all."

Holiday is averaging 12.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists this season, a drop-off from the 19.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 7.4 assists he averaged last season for the Bucks. 

While he was the second-leading scorer behind Antetokounmpo last season, he's the fifth-leading scorer on the Celtics, following Tatum, Brown, Kristaps Porzingis and Derrick White

But the Celtics don't need him to play as prominent of an offensive role. And while his shooting percentage has dipped from 47.9% to 45.7% from last season to this season, his 3-point percentage is up from 38.4% to 41.2%.

Holiday has made it clear that he's willing to sacrifice, even if it means his stats won't be eye-popping enough for him to repeat as an All-Star this season after getting the honor last February. 

"It's always been about winning," Holiday told FOX Sports. "It's never really been about the stats." 

Nobody knows that better than Lakers coach Darvin Ham, who coached Holiday as an assistant on the Bucks for two seasons from 2020-2022.

"He's a silent assassin," Ham said. "...He's just an easy-going guy, man. He's a pleasure to coach. Love being around him. Has a sneaky great sense of humor. Just soft-spoken. Just wants to win, man. Cares about his teammates and wants to win, man. Not one of those guys that tries to draw any attention to himself. One of the best, probably the best perimeter defender I've ever been around. Sorry Lindsey Hunter and Tayshaun [Prince]."

Ham isn't alone in using superlatives when talking about Holiday.

In an appearance on ESPN's "First Take" in October, retired NBA player Andre Iguodala called Holiday "the most underrated player of this generation," adding, "For him not to make All Defensive every single year, every year he's been in the league."

Last season, Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine similarly named Holiday when asked who he thought was the most underrated player in the league in an appearance on the "Through The Wire" podcast, saying, "I don't think he gets enough credit for what he does offensively and defensively."

Even though Holiday isn't focused on credit, per se, he shrugged when asked if he thinks he has been overlooked for the Defensive Player of the Year Award throughout his career. 

"It would be nice," Holiday told FOX Sports. "But if I don't get it, it's fine. I like the hardware better. I like being able to get rings and being able to put banners up and getting championships. But DPOY would be cool."

For now, Holiday is just putting his head down and doing the work. 

And on Christmas, that meant dismantling a team he once worshiped in front of family and friends.

Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.

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