In essence, Justin Holiday has taken over a role that most recently belonged to Dwyane Wade.
Holiday is a veteran leader on his new team and will likely open the season as the starting two guard. Wade's Chicago Bulls were trying to make the playoffs, while the current Bulls will launch a rebuilding project, so it's not quite the same. But Holiday, 28, admits there are times when he can't believe this is where his career is at.
"Trust me, the whole thing -- first of all me being like the third-oldest player -- is weird for me," Holiday said. "But hey, sometimes that's how it works and that's a challenge I'm willing to take on."
Holiday sees himself as an unlikely candidate for the job since he wasn't drafted and played in Belgium, Hungary and the D-League before landing a permanent NBA job. At the same time, Holiday owns a championship ring as a reserve on the 2015 Golden State Warriors.
At the same time, it's far from the most unlikely story ever told. Holiday's younger brother Jrue was a first-round draft pick who now plays for New Orleans. Justin and Jrue shared a bedroom while growing up in the Los Angeles area.
"I've been through a lot, regardless of what people may think," Holiday said. "There's going to be adversity, that's one thing I've been through in my life, if you know anything about my story. So I'll be able to lead in that way, help the young guys be poised, continue to fight. That's what they're going to have to do, be able to fight through tough times. I'll for sure be able to help them."
Holiday seems pretty upbeat about the Bulls, a popular choice to be the league's worst team this season. As a free agent this summer, Holiday had a choice and opted for a return to Chicago, where he spent a few months at the end of the 2015-16 season. The Bulls then sent him to New York as part of the Derrick Rose trade.
"Obviously being here, I knew what I was getting into," he said. "That was a big thing for me. How this organization carries itself, treats me like family, a professional. So that was a big part of me wanting to come to Chicago."
Last year, the Bulls were led by a veteran trio of Wade, Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo. That group didn't always see eye-to-eye, but had been to a combined 19 All-Star Games.
This year's leadership trio is the undrafted Holiday, center Robin Lopez and forward Quincy Pondexter, who hasn't played an NBA game in more than two years because of knee issues. Oddly enough, Lopez and Pondexter were high school teammates in Fresno, Calif., while Holiday and Pondexter played together for three years at Washington. The Bulls will open the preseason Tuesday in New Orleans.
"I'm not worried about big names or anything like that," Holiday said. "I do know what I've been through. That's one thing no one can take from me. I do know I can lead. I do know Robin can lead. I do know Quincy can lead. So at the end of the day that's all that matters.
"We're here to win. We're not on this NBA team just to be here, just to hang out. We're here to win games. That's what we're trying to get to, that's the process we're building, however long that takes or whichever way it takes for us to get there."
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