Lewis: Pelicans’ Jrue Holiday looking in good form _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ-- New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday tries to find room to pass between Houston Rockets forwards Kostas Papanikolaou and Joey Dorsey during Tuesday's preseason game at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.

Jrue Holiday must have thought it was going to be short night.

Why else would he have drawn three fouls in just over six minutes of the Pelicans’ home exhibition opener Tuesday, when defense is merely an option before the real stuff begins in two weeks?

It was enough to send the only fan wearing Holiday’s No. 11 jersey amid a sea of Anthony Davis-issue No. 23s through a portal with his father to a club area, never to return.

But what the pair, along with the rest of those in the half-filled Smoothie King Center, did get to see in Holiday’s semi-cameo appearance was enough to show that the one-time All-Star point guard is back to full form after his first season with the Pelicans was cut short in early January when he suffered a stress fracture in his right fibula after just 34 games.

How’s this for an abbreviated stat line: three shots attempted, three shots made, one a 3-pointer, two assists and a steal, meaning Holiday had a hand in 13 of his team’s 20 points when he exited the court with a pat on the fanny from Pelicans coach Monty Williams, who didn’t seem too perturbed by the fouls.

Extrapolate those numbers to a full 33.6 minutes, his average playing time last season, and that’s 38 points and 13 assists and six steals per night and 100 percent shooting.

If you could add style points, he’d merit them:

-- Blowing past Patrick Beverly for an easy layup.

-- Tipping the ball away from Beverly to start a break finished by an Eric Gordon layup.

-- Penetrating the lane only to dish out to Davis for a 15-footer.

-- A smooth 3-pointer from the top of the arc made with what looks like the quickest release on the team.

Of course, those first-quarter numbers are pretty lofty, and Holiday’s line when he did come back to play the third quarter brought them back down to earth (Does a pass bounced off the back of Omer Asik’s head quality as a turnover?)

Holiday finished with 14 points, including making all four of his free throws and another 3-pointer, another steal and two more assists, one of them a alley-oop to Davis that brought the somnambulant crowd to life.

But you get the idea.

Williams may have gone into training camp intrigued with the idea of Tyreke Evans at the point. But when Evans makes his preseason debut in Thursday’s game against Oklahoma City after his own injury-forced absence, expect him to see most of his action at small forward, which is where he prefers to be anyway.

That would leave Holiday comfortably ensconced at the starting spot with ever-improving Austin Rivers as his backup and rookie Russ Smith hoping to land a roster spot as the third option.

And that would certainly justify the price the Pelicans paid for Holiday: two lottery picks dealt to Philadelphia that the 76ers used last year to take injured Nerlens Noel and this year to take the UL-Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton, whom they traded to Orlando for Croatian Dano Saric.

Who do you think got the better end of the deal? And just maybe we’ll see more No. 11s in the stands.