It was the second day of New Orleans Pelicans training camp, and point guard Jrue Holiday said his whole body was sore.
Holiday, 24, joked that he was feeling old.
“When I came in as a rookie, I could just go,” he said. “You’d see all the vets stretching. They were there three hours early getting treatment. And now, I’m that guy.”
Most of it, however, is that Holiday is back practicing after missing 53 games with a season-ending stress fracture in his right tibia. Some of it is that Holiday is so happy to be at training camp with his teammates, he could be overdoing it just a tad, he said.
For instance, after practice Wednesday, he was engaged with several teammates in a variation of the playground game cutthroat, a battle royal in which whoever gets scored on has to leave the court. In this one, whoever missed also left, raising the stakes.
“I don’t think I’ve pushed my body this much for a long time,” he said. “I think it’s good, (with) all of our trainers and everything, they kind of have to kick me off the court.”
Holiday said that on Tuesday, coach Monty Williams “had to kick me off the court because I didn’t want to stop. I’m glad he did, because I was feeling it today.”
Williams said he and his staff are trying to be smart with Holiday, an integral part of the team because he runs the offense and is one of the best defensive point guards in the NBA. They also are taking that tact with forward Ryan Anderson, also coming off surgery, as well as power forward Anthony Davis and center Omer Asik, both of whom played in the FIBA World Cup.
The Pelicans are practicing twice a day in preparation for Saturday’s start of preseason games. However, when the team works on offense during the night sessions, Holiday has been limited, even though no contact is allowed.
That’s mostly been a precaution with Holiday, who estimated Monday, the day before camp began, that he was about 75 percent back from the injury. Williams said Holiday looks pretty good.
“He’s in great shape,” Williams said. “That’s the thing that typically you see the opposite when you have a guy who has been out for a long time. It takes them awhile to get back into playing shape.”
He looked much like the old Holiday on Wednesday, Williams said.
“He was fighting over pick-and-rolls (Wednesday) morning,” Williams said. “He’s so doggone strong that you don’t realize how good he is until you get him back, and you’re like, ‘That looked a lot better with him in it than it did with other guys.’
“He’s not where he wants to be, but surprisingly, he’s better than I thought he was.”
Holiday has been trying to be smart, too, he said, even with his not wanting to get off the court. Often another injury can happen because of putting pressure on another area or body part.
“My leg is sore, but at the same time, I try to make it to where it’s the same as the other leg,” he said. “So if I’m jumping off my left leg, then I’m going to go ahead and do it with my surgical leg.
“And that aspect, I think I’m trying not to compensate. And I think that’s the biggest part of re-injury and just trying to get this leg back like it was.”
He said that with the help of Williams and the trainers, he still thinks he’s taking his time, “slow and unusual,” which will help him get all the way back healed quicker. It has even provided more of an opportunity for him mentor.
“Normally, I’d take 100 percent of the reps,” he said. “Before, somebody would try to come in for me, and I’m like ‘No; I’m out there. But this year, I do know the plays, and I try to help out some of the young guys like (rookie point guard) Russ (Smith), who is still learning the plays. So I let him get in.”
Post-practice treatment has been a necessary daily regimen to keep him going strong.
“Really taking care of the leg,” he said. “Not just my leg, but keeping my calfs loose, ankles loose, things around the injury loose and flexible. I think that’s probably the biggest thing.”
As for as who won the cutthroat tournament, Holiday said a trainer had to pull him out.
“That’s the time where I need to be like, ‘OK, you had a long hard practice. ... Maybe one game is good. Let me chill that second game.’ But it’s just competitive nature,” Holiday said.
The Pelicans added D.J. Stephens, a 6-foot-5 guard, to their training camp roster Wednesday. He was brought in after guard Dionte Christmas injured an ankle during practice Tuesday. Stephens played collegiately at Memphis, where he was the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, his senior year. However, he went undrafted and played in Greece and Turkey and a 10-day stint with the Milwaukee Bucks last season, appearing in three games. Asked what he liked about Stephens, Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps said “He is athletic, a good guy, and he works hard.” Nineteen players are now on the roster.