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New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) scores against the Los Angeles Lakers in the second half of an NBA basketball game at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Friday, Feb. 23, 2019. The Pelicans defeated the Lakers, 128 - 115.

When Alvin Gentry last talked to the media before the All-Star break, he only wanted to talk to about the guys who played.

Gentry didn't want to field any more questions that night about his superstar forward who exited the Smoothie King Center with a shoulder injury during the second half of the Pelicans' game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

So in that spirit, this column will be written without ever mentioning that name.

After all, he wasn't one of the Pelicans who helped deliver the surprising 128-115 victory in Saturday night's highly anticipated showdown against the Los Angeles Lakers.

He wore a white shirt and a jacket instead of the Mardi Gras Pelicans jersey his teammates wore.

Meanwhile, Jrue Holiday, who finished with 27 points and seven assists, showed once again that it's his team now.

"He's just an underrated guy," said Lakers guard Rajon Rondo, Holiday's backcourt teammate this time a year ago. "He's been very skilled from day one. When I first played a seven-game series against him when he was in Philly, the league doesn't give him enough credit. He's played in small markets, but to me he is easily (a) top-5 best two-way two-man in the game."

Holiday, at least for the remainder of this season, is the face of the franchise.

The player who used to own that title has just 21 games left to see-saw between street clothes and his No. 23 jersey.

If there was any game Pelicans fans wanted to see the guy who used to have that title play, it would have been this one: the team he plays for now against the team he'll likely play for some day.

Gentry said it was a team decision.

"We talked to him along the way," Gentry said. "Everything that has happened has been totally transparent. I think he'll tell you that any decision made by the team, we sit down and talk to him about it. That's the way it was made."

The Pelicans played the Indiana Pacers Friday night and listed "rest" as the reason.

"We're not playing him on back-to-backs in this situation," Gentry said. "It gives us an opportunity to minimize the minutes he's going to be playing. As a team, we think that's best for our franchise right now."

The Pelicans have just two more back-to-backs on the schedule this season, so we'll have to see if that formula holds true.

But one thing Gentry said before the game probably wasn't true.

"It's just a regular-season game, one of 82," Gentry said.

No, this wasn't just any ol' regular game.

The long lines that formed outside the arena two hours before tipoff — with many fans wearing Lakers purple and gold instead of Mardi Gras purple, green and gold — proved this was more than just a game between teams without winning records.

This was against the Lakers, the team that had a lot to do with this reality show of a situation that Gentry referred to as a "dumpster fire" just nine days ago.

Gentry said the decision not to play New Orleans' all-star forward wasn't based on that.  

"It had nothing to do with it," Gentry said. "If we were playing the Baltimore Claws, we would sit him out that game too."

The Baltimore Claws, for those wondering, were an ABA franchise from the 1970s that folded before ever playing an actual game. They played only three exhibition games.

For the Pelicans, the rest of this season is basically an exhibition schedule. The playoffs are a long shot.

But it was clear that the Pels weren't treating this one as an exhibition.

They wanted to win.

"They just played hard," Rondo said. "They came out with intensity. You give a team like that confidence, it's going to be a long game and that's what they showed tonight."

Holiday led the way.


Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.