PORTLAND, Ore. — While his New Orleans teammates were taking shots toward the end of Monday’s shootaround in the Moda Center, Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday was being turned into a human pretzel.
A team trainer worked Holiday’s legs, twisting them in myriad directions as the 6-foot-4 guard lay on the floor, hours before Monday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers. All in a day’s work as Holiday continues to work his way toward 100 percent after undergoing surgery to repair a stress fracture to his right tibia in February.
Holiday’s numbers through seven games say he’s back, and perhaps all the way, as he’s averaging 17.4 points and 7.3 assists a game. Holiday has played at least 34 minutes in six of the Pelicans’ seven games. In his most recent game Friday, Holiday tied a season high with 24 points in New Orleans’ 139-91 win over Minnesota.
But Holiday said the comeback is a process. While Holiday is getting there, he’s still working toward complete health.
“I think it’s going to take a little bit more time,” Holiday said Monday. “I’m only about a month and a half in, and this is a different level than rehabbing and working out during the summer. Not even close to how intense it is.”
The rigors of an NBA season don’t allow much time for recovery, either. New Orleans plays Monday and Tuesday against Portland and Sacramento, and as Holiday points out, he’ll face top-flight guards in the Blazers’ Damian Lillard and the Kings’ Darren Collison.
“You really don’t have time to let your legs rest and recover,” Holiday said. “I’ve been trying to train and work my way up, but you play so many minutes and travel so much … I don’t want to say it sets you back, but it does stunt recovery a little. But I’m doing a good job of monitoring it, and so are the coaches.”
Holiday said he hopes in about a month, he’ll be 100 percent and return to playing at the All-Star level he achieved in 2012 playing for Philadelphia.
In the meantime, Holiday is adjusting to a changed look on the floor. The Pelicans signed center Omer Asik during the offseason, forward Anthony Davis has an expanded role, and last season, Holiday played only 34 games with small forward Tyreke Evans.
Holiday said this year’s lineup means, “I don’t have to score as much, (although) I think I’ve been scoring pretty well. But with Tyreke on the floor, I don’t have to handle the ball as much. I might score more because they gravitate toward him. That takes pressure off my body, and pressure off me mentally.”
Before Holiday changed shoes after the shootaround, he pulled on a stocking cap displaying the name of his college alma mater, UCLA. It’s the school where his younger brother. Aaron, signed a letter of intent last week.
“I didn’t have anything to do with that. I thought he was going to go somewhere back east. I didn’t know,” Holiday said. “But for sure, I’m happy. Half my family went to UCLA.”
Monday night’s showdown between Davis and Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge of Portland is up in the air. Aldridge is recovering from an upper respiratory illness and sat out Saturday’s game against New Jersey. Aldridge is listed as questionable. The Blazers may also be without small forward Nicolas Batum, who is doubtful because of a right knee injury. ... Omer Asik missed Monday night’s game as a precautionary measure regarding his back. He is listed as day to day.