For many players, getting traded at trade deadline can be unsettling and transitioning to a new environment and a new team can be rocky. Such transitions into a locker room can be catastrophic, regardless of the players’ role or responsibility within the team.
This has clearly not been the case for the Phoenix Suns newest member, Aaron Holiday. And the difference is palpable.
“Just the way they play basketball, even before I sat - they were the number one team in basketball before I got here,” said Holiday after Thursday’s practice.
“It’s been the easiest transition for me.”
The fourth-year guard out of UCLA has enjoyed his time in the Valley and that is not likely to change any time soon. The culture that has grown within the Suns’ locker room is infectious, as newcomers enter as strangers, but quickly turn to long-lost brothers.
A bum right ankle has hampered Holiday’s early numbers, but the data still backs Holiday’s talk. In his 6 games played since becoming a Sun, Holiday is shooting 52.8% from the field, including an unreal 60% from beyond the arc, and averaging 8 points on 19 minutes a game.
The sample size is small and not sustainable efficiency wise. But there is a lot of reason to be excited about Holiday’s fit in Phoenix.
Aaron, the youngest brother of the Bucks’ Jrue Holiday and the Kings’ Justin Holiday, was dealt to the Wizards from the Pacers at the draft last July. Aaron showed promise in both guard positions in his three years with the Pacers, shuffling between the starting lineup and the bench as well.
In Washington, the developments in the youngest Holiday’s game began to show. After shooting about 40% from the field as a Pacer, Holiday shot 46.7% from the field as his 41 games played as a Wizard. But with his restricted free agency coming up, the Wizards cashed in on Holiday’s value and the Suns’ need for another point guard option.
While the Suns will have to face the same predicament in a few months, that’s a bridge no one is thinking to cross right now. The only thing on the Suns’ minds right now is getting back to the Finals and putting in the work to get back there.
“Not everybody come to the gym usually on [an] off-day. But here, every single person is in the gym,” Holiday said. “That was mind-blowing to me at first. I was joking with my teammates like Jae [Crowder], I’ve never seen this before.”
This transition could be hard for anyone. Hard enough without the added responsibilities in the offense that came when Chris Paul was ruled out for nearly 2 months and when Devin Booker entered the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
But for Holiday, the challenge is exciting.
“I love getting thrown into the fire. It just builds character,” Holiday said. “[It] helps you in the long run for sure. Me getting thrown into the fire, making plays, trying to make plays for other people, having my mistakes - it’ll help me in the long run.”
Crowder also spoke about how the team as a whole must approach this opportunity.
“We can only get better from this, we can’t come out of this with our heads down,” Crowder said. “No matter the outcome of the game, we can only get better as a unit. And with 20-something games left, that’s the ultimate goal.”
For the Suns, this opportunity to see how the team can survive should Paul’s recovery be delayed is great in the short term, but it also lets them see a glimpse into the not-so-distant future when Paul is longer playing.
As for Holiday, at 25 years old and ahead of his first, albeit restricted, free agency this summer, this opportunity to showcase his skills could be the difference between millions of dollars. And considering both of his older brother’s had their best NBA seasons in their late 20s, Aaron has plenty of reason to back himself to take this challenge head on. The guard averaged 20.3 points a game in his junior year at UCLA before entering the 2018 NBA Draft, where he was drafted 23rd overall by the Indiana Pacers.
Holiday and the Suns look to round out their four-game homestand tonight against the New York Knicks, before a short three-game Eastern Conference road trip that includes key stops in Milwaukee (Sunday, Mar. 6) and Miami (Wednesday, Mar. 9).