Reflections on Jrue Holiday's Press Conference

Something is bothering me about the Jrue Holiday press conference.  As in:

Why did he have a press conference?

What’s bothering me is that his performance as a UCLA Bruin wasn’t worthy of a press conference. This is different than debating whether or not he should go to the pros. I frankly don’t know if he should go to the pros. I’m not an NBA coach, general manager or scout. I lack any knowledge of his personal financial situation. I haven’t seen his report card. For all I know, he has to go pro. But the press conference bothers me. It bothers me because it feels as if it is symptomatic of a larger reality. The reality is: Jrue Holiday was always going pro after one year at UCLA. I supposed he was also suppose to average double digits in points, lead to a fourth straight Pac 10 title and help it advance past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. What we’re seeing now is the fulfillment of a plan/dream that was laid out a long time ago:

  1.    Press conference to announce for college of choice
  2.   One outstanding college season
  3.   Press conference to announce that “I’m ready for the pros.”

And clearly the absence of anything “outstanding” is not going to knock the Jrue Holiday Express off its tracks.

This will not be a popular comparison among UCLA fans, but I have to point it out  USC’s Mark Sanchez deserved a press conference. Jrue Holiday did not.  Sanchez led the Trojans to a 12-1 season. His performance was stellar; he became a prominent figure whose future plans were clearly press conference worthy. Holiday on the other hand had a (and I’m being a little generous here) good first season. His performance as a freshman would have been recalled as “perfectly fine” if he played at UCLA for a couple of more seasons, his number and the team’s record improving every year. Since they’re going to be his only stat line for college it’s for certain no one will ever recall his “great college career.”

Holiday’s press conference, on the other hand, should be recalled as, well I was going to say arrogant, but that’s not it. I think it’s more accurate to say that it will be recalled as somehow perfunctory, more of a had to do than a deserved to do. Press conferences called to announce transitions, whether they are for a pro retiring, a high school player committing or a college player moving on. This press conference was symptomatic of a Holiday world view that seems disconnected from the objective reality. The press conference – previously reserved for players whose performance earned a press conference – suggests an “I’m a star … people care what I think, say and do … I’m going to enjoy sitting here in the hot TV lights talking into microphones despite the fact that my play on the court doesn’t warrant this” attitude.

What was worse was that Head Coach Ben Howland was forced to sit there and squirm and participate. Howland at the press conference had to wish Holiday well and call him a “pro” in what looked like an award-winning acting performance. Say what you will about Pete Carroll’s behavior at Sanchez’ press conference, and I’ll say he acted like a jerk, at least maybe he was speaking his mind honestly – albeit self-servingly. (And, yes, I might have just invented an adverb.)

Let’s be real honest for a moment. Does anyone really believe there is any chance at all that Holiday returns to UCLA if he has any chance at all of getting drafted, as opposed to the mythical “first round guarantee?” I don’t. The reason Holiday hasn't hired an agent yet is because he is protecting himself from a catastrophic situation ala Brandon Rush from Kansas. If he doesn’t get hurt, he’s staying in the draft.

What’s bothering me, in the end, is the charade. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Jrue Holiday fulfilling a lifelong dream and becoming a professional basketball player. I actually really like his game and would love for him to return to UCLA as point guard next season. I think there is absolutely nothing to suggest that last season was nothing less than a decent freshman season of a player with a lot of potential who had to make a lot of adjustments to college play and a trio of older, more successful teammates. It would be more than perfectly fine with me (shoot, I’d love it) if next season was the year when Jrue Holiday transitioned from tentative freshman to super sophomore. It’s just that it’s never going to happen. Barring the unspeakable, Holiday is going to go pro. And there’s something about the cliché, something about the inevitability of it, that’s bothering me.

Holiday’s press conference was just another item on his I'll-be-a-pro soon checklist. He called it not because he had to have one, but because from his point of view, that’s what you do. The will he or won’t he agent dance is just an extension of the same predictable series of events. Just watch, Holiday will take his decision right down to the wire and when he announces he’s staying in the draft he’ll maintain that he “didn’t make up my mind until the last minute.” I get bonus points if he makes any allusions to prayer in the final announcement.

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