NBA

NBA AM: Justin Holiday May Be Hawks’ Latest Steal

Finding success in the NBA isn’t a given. For Justin Holiday, being an underdog has helped him overcome odds.

Lang Greene profile picture
Updated 1 year ago on

4 min read

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Justin Holiday May Be Hawks’ Latest Steal

As the marquee names dominated free agency headlines in early July, the Atlanta Hawks rather quietly agreed to terms with free agent forward Justin Holiday on a modest two-year deal worth a shade under $2 million.

Justin Holiday, for those unaware, is the older brother of New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday. But their respective paths to success in the league couldn’t be more different.

The younger Holiday is a former All-Star with league wide respect that has amassed career earnings approaching $30 million. The elder Holiday went undrafted out of college and spent time toiling in the D-League, looking for an opportunity before winning a title as a reserve with Golden State last season.

While proud of his younger brother’s success, Holiday says he wouldn’t change the rocky path of his professional journey as it has fueled him to dig deep and take nothing for granted.

“It’s the only way I know how to go about things,” Holiday told Basketball Insiders on approaching his career with an underdog mentality. “Really, I wouldn’t change it. It’s the reason that I am here now because I have had to fight so much. Being in situations that might be a lot tougher for other people that may not understand what I’ve been through.

“I know when my shot is not going well or something isn’t happening the way I want it to, that I’m going to eventually get through it. I didn’t get drafted, but I’m here now. I’ve been cut [from teams] who knows how many times, but I’m here now. I think [my journey] will prepare me for so many in-game things, or maybe not playing or whatever the case may be. It will always fuel me to want to work and to be better because I know that’s the way [good] things happen. You work, and it will improve. Period.”

The 2014-15 Warriors rolled off 67 regular season wins and ran roughshod throughout the playoffs on their way to hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy. Holiday appeared in 59 contests last season and posted averages of 4.3 points and 1.2 rebounds in just over 11 minutes per appearance.

Golden State didn’t enter last season with mainstream respect, but earned it after taking home the hardware. Holiday sees the same potential in Atlanta with a Hawks franchise that has appeared in the playoffs eight consecutive seasons but is still seeking respect to a degree.

“I think we can win a championship,” Holiday said confidently. “I think we have a team that can do that. Now I’m not saying it’s going to happen this year or when it will happen, but I think we have that type of team. As far as what mainstream people think, it really doesn’t matter. You’re going to go through it whether people believe in you or not.

“So I think our team has the potential to do very well this year. Obviously I’m not going to call out what will happen because you never know what will happen, but you saw what happened last year when people didn’t believe.”

The Hawks will enter the season with concerns at small forward after the departure of DeMarre Carroll to Toronto via free agency this past summer. Carroll had joined the Hawks on a two-year deal worth $5 million and developed into a borderline All-Star candidate during his tenure with the team, which led to his raise this summer.

Holiday will have his best opportunity since turning pro to carve out a major niche in a system that has benefited role players in the past.

“The main thing that appealed to me was how the team played,” Holiday said of his free agent decision. “Just how coach [Mike Budenholzer] goes about doing things here. I guess DeMarre leaving, obviously that made it available for me to come. So that has to be a big reason why I’m here, but I guess I didn’t focus as much on him not being here. I just think the way they do things here is the main reason why I felt like this was a good place for me to come.”

The Hawks kick off their preseason slate on the road versus Cleveland on October 7.

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Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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