Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Jrue Holiday calls Boston 'best place that I can be' to compete against his former team

It's been roughly two months since Jrue Holiday was traded from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Portland Trail Blazers, only to eventually land in Boston just a day prior to the start of training camp.

The All-Star guard will face his former team Wednesday night at TD Garden when the Celtics host the Bucks for the first time this season. While it was a brief three years that resulted in a championship during the 2020-21 campaign, Holiday feels good about where he ended up given the circumstance.
"I'm in a very good position to be where I want to be," Holiday said post-shootaround late Wednesday morning. "Still happy to be here, none of that has ever changed. It was a good time. I won a championship, made some friends, made some family members and it'll always have a piece of my heart."
Milwaukee in a blockbuster move that surprised many, dealt Holiday for Damian Lillard -- a superstar and one of the top-75 players in league history -- in hopes of adding another NBA title to a franchise that has only won one in over the past 50 years.

Still in the aftermath of the Bucks pulling the trigger on a deal for Lillard to pair with former MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Holiday had Boston at the top of his list of potential destinations. With that being said, Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens didn't hesitate to not only meet the Trail Blazers asking price of draft picks, but also add the reigning Sixth Man of the Year in Malcolm Brogdon, young veteran big man and fan favorite Robert Williams. 

According to Stevens, when a talent of Holiday's caliber is available, you do whatever it takes to get him on your roster and there aren't many players he would of put together the type of package for like the one that the Trail Blazers eventually agreed to.

Since then, the Celtics are 11-3 to start, but for Holiday facing his former team in the Bucks -- who are 10-4 so far -- it's just another game that he didn't necessarily have circled on his calendar like the media would like to potray.
"It'll be fun to compete against them, obviously I know their game pretty be well. I was damn near there until the day before training camp. I feel like maybe knowing their tendencies and some of the things they want to do, obviously they've mixed in some different stuff ... the personal side is kind of pushed to the side for the most part. I can't say that about everybody."
Former teammates like Brook Lopez couldn't be happier for Holiday, who is averaging 12.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.0 blocks per game on 43.5% shooting, as he wasn't surprised that his friend is now a Celtic -- a team the Bucks may have to go through in their pursuit of an NBA Finals berth.
"Jrue means a lot to our team, the city of Milwaukee and myself personally," Lopez told CLNS Media. "I grew up playing against Jrue, he went to my older brother's high school. We played each other a ton in high school and we've been connected pretty much ever since. He definitely holds a special place in my heart and I'm excited to see him tonight. We absolutely wouldn't have a championship without him. He got us there ... it was a great pickup by the Celtics. It wasn't unexpected. That’s the caliber of a player he is, he's a difference-maker ... it's been weird to see him in clips and film and stuff like that all season long. It's bizarre. I love Jrue. I miss him. I only want the best for him. I'm excited to see him tonight. It's going to be a lot of fun, it's going to be a great matchup."
Rivalry aside, Holiday also got high praise from former Bucks teammate Pat Connaughton, who's also a Massachusetts native and a fan of the Celtics growing up.
"I'm happy for him in the sense of, I want him to continue to compete for championships," Connaughton told CLNS Media Wednesday morning. "Obviously, being a kid who grew up in Boston, 10-year-old Pat would've loved Jrue as a Celtic. I think the city will really love what he does, not just on the court, but off the court and how he carries himself, how he plays the game, how he defends, things like that. You've got a great fan base here that I think will really take to him. Obviously, for us, it makes our job that much harder and we're excited for the challenge. That's the way that we operate."
Despite wanting to essentially retire in Milwaukee, Holiday couldn't be in a better place to keep competing for championships, while getting to face his former team in the Bucks even if he doesn't see it has seeking revenge in any type of way or having an ill will.
"I think that [Milwaukee] got what they wanted," Holiday said. "I can't be mad at that. A warning would've been cool, but other than that, I'm in the best place that I can be to compete against them for the top team in the East and hopefully the top team in the league."
Holiday and the Celtics will look to bounce back on Thanksgiving Eve from getting their six-game win streak snapped this past Monday, when they face the Bucks who have won five straight. ESPN has the tip-off at 7:30 pm ET. 

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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