DeMarcus Cousins can be persuasive.
Jrue Holiday knows this all too well.
This summer Cousins used those powers to the best of his ability, hoping to convince Holiday he should spurn all other offers his unrestricted free agency accrued and return to the New Orleans Pelicans.
Holiday obliged, signing a five-year, $125 million contract to remain with the franchise in July. While other priorities may have swayed him more than Cousins’ words, Holiday admitted those intimidation tactics illustrated he was valued by his teammates.
“You could call them threats,” Cousins joked at media day. “I said ‘Jrue, let’s get this done and stop wasting time. You’re really not allowed to go anywhere else.’ Things of that nature.
“But, on a serious note, everybody knew we needed Jrue here. We knew he was an important piece to this team. We were in his ear before it happened and when it was time to really put the pressure on him, we did. He was great about it, and he was responsive, and at the end of the day we got it done. We are glad to have him back, and, as we all know, he is a huge piece of this team.”
However, even with the large contract in hand, Holiday’s visibility has diminished this offseason. A trio of prior All-NBA selections — Cousins, Anthony Davis and Rajon Rondo — donning Pelicans uniforms overshadowed Holiday’s return.
And when New Orleans signed Rondo to a one-year contract, just two weeks after Holiday re-signed, it altered Holiday’s place as the team’s primary ball-handler. But, several Pelicans teammates and coaches insist Holiday’s role and value is as important as ever entering the 2017-18 season.
“I think Jrue is going to have a huge year,” coach Alvin Gentry said this summer. “He looks great and he’s had a full offseason and I think a lot of people are going to see how dynamic of a player he really is. I’m really excited to see him play, and it’s been great having him out there.”
After all, this is Holiday’s first full offseason and training camp since 2013.
He’s finally unshackled by the burdens of a lingering leg injury or a family health crisis, which allowed him the opportunity to think exclusively about basketball for the entirety of the offseason. It’s a gift Holiday has learned to appreciate more than most.
“I guess, I haven’t even thought about it,” Holiday said. “It is a freeing feeling to know my family is OK, and they’ll be OK. I guess it allows me to just come out here and focus.
“I’m just excited to be here. I re-signed. We got a group of new players, so I’m just ready to come out here and play.”
The larger question is where, exactly, will he play. Both Holiday and Rondo said the team will share ball-handling responsibilities, without a rigid structure in place to define precise roles.
However, Holiday grew comfortable into contributing as an off-ball guard toward the latter stages of last season, especially when Cousins was added via trade in February. It’s already paid dividends just three days into training camp.
“He’s going to get a lot of layups this season,” Rondo said Thursday. “He’s one of the best cutters I’ve played with, along with Avery Bradley. Jrue is right up there. He’s very unselfish and he does the little things on the court as far as setting picks and moving without the basketball that allows us to open the floor up spacing-wise and create his own shot.”
Ultimately, the Pelicans structure in Gentry’s scheme allows for a variety of options, with few designed plays and a reliance on feel, depending on the situation. And with two point guards on the floor together, who have logged more than 1,200 NBA games between them, the options are wide open.
“It’s really good,” Gentry said. “Sometimes, we just outlet the ball and other guy will say ‘take it.' So I think if you have two guys like that who are interchangeable, it makes everything really easy to do."