For better or worse, Jrue Holiday is gone to the NBA. When he declared, he had the reputation of a high-school prodigy who couldn't make a smooth transition to the college game. Average to better than average Pac-10 guards had rendered him impotent on the court. What's a guy in that situation to do?
He could have taken responsibility for his poor freshman season. But no, in Jrue's case, he went on the offensive, displaying with his mouth the finishing skills that his body could not produce on the floor during his freshman campaign. He and his handlers spun a story about how he was misused by the coaches, lied to about his role, kept at arm's length by the seniors, blah blah blah, what I like to call the "Holiday Abuse Excuse." The fans' disappointment over Holiday's freshman season numbers and disappearance in losses and confusion that a player so overmatched could actually generate lottery interest from teh NBA quickly turned into irritation that he would denigrate the four letters that he represented on the court. At the end, he received "good riddance" comments from fans who must realize that, objectively speaking, he would likely have been our best player in 2009-2010 and could have made the difference between a Pac-10 title and a Pac-10 also-ran.
But now that he's gone, let's look at the efficacy of the Holiday Abuse Excuse.
When Holiday declared in April, initial reports were that he shouldn't leave, that he wouldn't stay in the draft:
Came into the season with huge hype but left people wondering what all the fuss was about. Obviously has great size for the PG position, if in fact he's a point guard. Pundits have long hyped him in a similar, almost programmed fashion, but for someone that was supposed to be polished entering college ball, he looked downright awful at times and never took over or dominated. Pac-Ten writers and insiders all think he's overrated. The early lottery projections were way off, and the DWade and Westbrook comparisons are a farce. With all the early entry candidates, Holiday is no lock for the first round and should return to school and prove himself by running the point guard position for UCLA next season. The UCLA system constrains statistics, but by leaving now, after such an average year, it makes it appear as if he has something to hide. Likely late first to early second rounder.
The Holiday Abuse Excuse campaign began, and one month later, the acceptance of Jrue's Abuse Excuse for his disappointing first year was gaining momentum:
A point guard by nature, Holiday spent the majority of his time playing off the ball due to the presence of Collison. This fact, coupled with Ben Howland’s slow-paced offensive system, prevented Holiday from getting very many touches or allowing him the freedom to create. Scouts who have seen tape of the freshman from his days as a prep star in California know that Holiday is a blossoming talent with an intriguing skill set to go along with good size for his position.
Fast forward to today, the Holiday Abuse Excuse continues to generate acceptance in NBA circles
One general manager said of Holiday: "[UCLA's] Ben Howland is an excellent college coach, but he had his thumb down so hard on that kid that he was afraid to take a shot at 15 feet. ... I think the coach had him scared to take most shots." The counter, of course, is that Howland's primary job is to win at UCLA, not run a farm club for the pros.
And Holiday is now projected as a lottery pick. Coincidence? I think not. Holiday could have performed well in workouts and measured well at the combine, but NBA general managers know to trust their eyes and the results of a player's one season in college. Let's not forget that one of the main reasons the NBA imposed the age limit was to give teams a chance to evaluate players against better competition (than in high school). Prior to the rule, GMs were making bad choices drafting on potential because they didn't have adequate ways to measure how a 6'11" prospect in Mississippi would stack up against another similar player in Ohio. After one year of NCAA ball, and GMs can see the cream rise to the top.
Thus, prior to the Holiday Abuse Excuse, GMs had the "potential" of Holiday, counterweighed by his poor freshman season. The counterweight of a bad college season has sunk many players and forced them back to college for another season. GMs do not risk their jobs drafting (and asking their boss to spend millions on) guys whose potential was not matched by the one year of performance against college competition. But if they can shift responsibility for the poor performance onto Ben Howland forcing Holiday to play out of position, well, then, you can go back to looking at the potential of Holiday the Point Guard and not the player you saw overmatched--Holiday the Shooting Guard.
So there you have it. Holiday Potential + Disappointing Season + Holiday Abuse Excuse = Lottery. Jrue Holiday used what I thought was a poor excuse, a bush league performance, selling out his coach and teammates, absolving himself of responsibility and irritating the hell out of Bruin fans everywhere. I don't excuse him for what he did to the Bruins, but I have to tip my hat for how he played to his audience for all of this: NBA GMs. He brilliantly played his hand to the tune of hitting the lottery and making millions more for himself. Wow.
And then I realize: This is how the mind of an NBA general manager works? How much do these guys get paid?
And with that, I'm back to being confused.