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Holmes Fighting Through The Waiting Game With Sixers

Spencer Davies speaks with Richaun Holmes and Amir Johnson about the third-year big man’s season with the Sixers.

Spencer Davies



In the NBA, the waiting game can be trying. It often weeds out those who are not strong enough mentally to keep pushing forward, and eventually wears down the confidence of players to the point where they don’t enjoy the game the way they used to.

For Richaun Holmes, it’s done the opposite.

“You just remember the blessing each day,” Holmes told Basketball Insiders. “It’s only 450 guys here, so just work hard every day. They pay you to stay ready and just being professional about it.”

Since he was drafted by The Philadelphia 76ers three years ago in the second round, it’s been a constant battle for Holmes to maintain a consistent role. Even when he’s shown flashes of brilliance in spurts, it’s been difficult to stable minutes for him with the depth of the team’s frontcourt.

But every time he’s stepped foot on the hardwood, he’s made it extremely hard on Sixers head coach Brett Brown to not put him out there.

“I think he’s been fantastic,” Brown said before Philadelphia’s meeting with the Cavaliers on Thursday. “He sorta is viewed as a little bit of a martyr in our city. He’s been behind Jahlil [Okafor] and Nerlens [Noel] and now Amir [Johnson], and when he comes in he does some great things. I think that his spirit, his attitude remain positive. He clearly is an NBA player. He provides a different type of feel to our program.

“I’m proud of him holding his head high, not getting discouraged, fighting his way through some things, and it’s my job to make sure that he doesn’t rot on a bench. I gotta keep him alive. I think lately when he has received minutes from me, that he’s come in and he’s rewarded the team.”

With Ersan Ilyasova re-entering the picture, Brown sees Holmes playing the brunt of his playing time at the center position. It doesn’t matter to him though, because he just “prefers to be on the court.”

In December this season, Holmes was a huge part in the Sixers’ rotation. He scored in double figures six times that month. Most importantly, his 15-point, 11-rebound performance in Minnesota helped Philadelphia to a win on the 12th. In each of those games, he received at least 20 minutes of run.

From then on though, Holmes has either been inactive or a DNP-CD for 14 games, and in the 13 that he has played, he’s only seen 20 or more minutes of action four times.

The predicament draw similarity to the things that Holmes’ veteran teammate Amir Johnson grinded though in the early stages of his career.

“Probably myself,” Johnson told Basketball Insiders when asked who Holmes reminded him of. “Being on that Detroit team, there wasn’t really no minutes left, but to get on the floor coach wanted defense. That’s what I kinda preach to him.

“I didn’t play for my first four years in the NBA. For me to be on the court, I really had to be good defensively and I just kinda carried myself throughout the league. It kinda reminds me of me telling him, ‘The way you’re gonna find floor time is just being that guy defensively, being a dog on the floor.’”

Having the chance to watch him in practice and during games, those are the exact elements of Holmes’ game that Johnson has seen get better of the course of this season. He’s started to settle in more by being more aggressive and bringing a boost to Philadelphia with his activity on the defensive end of the floor.

“Just locking in,” Holmes told Basketball Insiders. “That was a big-time criticism of me. That’s something that coach told me I’mma have to do to get on the floor, so I had to lock in and be competitive on that end.”

While the defense has been a focus of his, it isn’t the only thing he’s honed in on. His perimeter jumper has dipped to a lowly 12.5 percent after having twice that success conversion-wise a season ago. That being said, it hasn’t taken away from him being the energy guy.

Brown enjoys watching him play that role for the Sixers and is a believer in what Holmes brings to the table. It’s not just potential anymore. It’s real pro-level skill.

“I’m excited to help move him forward and I think that he really does have a bright future,” Brown said. “He’s got live legs, a big-time bounce, and he’s got an A to B speed that I would rank amongst the league’s elite.”

“I’m trying to be better at everything,” Holmes told Basketball Insiders. “I wanna get my shot back fallin’. It hasn’t fell this year, so just working on that and also doing the things I do finishing around the rim and blocking shots. It’s fun. Fun to come in and bring that spark, lift the team when they kinda lifeless and just do my job.”

If the lack of a consistent role ever does eventually affect his pysche, Johnson has an idea about how Holmes can cope with it.

“Just stay positive,” Johnson told Basketball Insiders. “I don’t know if he’d do this, but when I wasn’t playing I’d ask to play in the [G-League] and get some minutes just to kinda get my wind back and just find ways to stay in shape, stay active.”

Perhaps he’ll take his teammate’s advice if it continues next year.

However, if Holmes keeps forcing Brown’s hand with his determination and desire to keep scratching and clawing, he won’t be sitting for much longer.

Spencer Davies is a Deputy Editor and a Senior NBA Writer based in Cleveland in his third year with Basketball Insiders. Covering the league and the Cavaliers for the past five seasons, his bylines have appeared on Bleacher Report, FOX Sports and HoopsHype.


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From time to time we have open chairs at Basketball Insiders for writers looking to gain experience, grow their brand and to be part of an aggressive up-tempo content team.

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From time to time we have open chairs at Basketball Insiders for writers looking to gain experience, grow their brand and to be part of an aggressive up-tempo content team.

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