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Q&A With Cavaliers Guard John Holland

After his first regular season at the NBA level, Basketball Insiders sat down with Cleveland Cavaliers guard John Holland to discuss the experience, his road to the league and more.

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After his first regular season at the NBA level, Basketball Insiders sat down with Cleveland Cavaliers guard John Holland to discuss the experience, his road to the league and more.

Basketball Insiders: The regular season is over. The playoffs are here. How do you feel about the guys’ chances?

Holland: I feel good. I think we’re in as good of a position as any team to win.

BI: There was a brief time in Boston a few years back in the playoffs, but for you, this was your first taste of the NBA life. The experience overall, how would you describe it?

Holland: It’s been great. It’s been such a crazy year. You basically see two different teams almost. That first half of the year where you got everybody—this whole big super team coming together—and now you have the second half of the year where it’s a whole different type of team. So it’s been a crazy year, fun ride.

BI: Nonetheless, being teammates with the best player in the world in LeBron James had to be an amazing way to come into your rookie year, right?

Holland: I mean, yeah…(pauses) He’s—when it’s all said and done—probably gonna be the best player to ever play the game, so to be able to say you were teammates on the same court, same floor is something I’mma look back at probably. It’s gonna be an experience.

BI: Do his accomplishments leave you in awe? You’re seeing this night-in and night-out from this guy.

Holland: It’s pretty amazing. He finds a way to amaze you every single time you see him play. Especially with the things he’s accomplished this year. I don’t know what it’s been like. I haven’t seen him day in and day out in years past. This year, it’s been really amazing.

BI: Have you studied how he goes about things on a daily basis?

Holland: You can learn so much by just being around him. It’s crazy how much you can learn just from being around him and this whole basketball culture right here. It’s amazing. I’ve learned so much just from watching.

BI: What about the Cleveland Cavaliers organization’s culture stood out to you?

Holland: Just how they do things. Just about the professionalism, the approach and how they handle things. Because you know it’s no easy task to have the media scrutinizing literally every single game every single day. From the smallest thing to the biggest thing, it’s under scrutiny. It’s a lot.

It’s a lot of pressure on the guys. It’s a lot of pressure on the coaches. It’s a lot of pressure on everybody around. So just to be able to see how they deal with that is impressive.

BI: Is there anybody in the locker room you got particularly close to this year?

Holland: All the guys are cool. Cedi [Osman]. Obviously the guys that were down in Canton a lot. Ante [Zizic]. Before they left—obviously I spent some time in Boston—so Jae [Crowder] and [Isaiah Thomas]. I knew them a little bit. And just now, everybody’s close. It’s not like one particular person. It’s the team.

BI: The NBA introduced the two-way contract before the season. Was it beneficial to you in your eyes?

Holland: I think so. I mean…if you could stop me at the beginning of the year and say, ‘You’re gonna play this many games. You’re gonna have an opportunity to be up [in Cleveland] and experience this,’ I’d do it again.

BI: You’ve spent three years in the G-League. Before that, four years overseas. That’s a long time to get to the pros. Is that something you take pride in?

Holland: Yeah! It’s something that I made the conscious decision to come back from overseas and try and pursue it. I’m not all the way there (laughs), but I’m making progress. It’s better than nothing. The first year I was in the G-League, I was able to get called up to Boston. Second year, didn’t nothing happen. I went back one more year for this two-way and I think it worked out.

BI: The world saw the opportunity that Andre Ingram got and the success he had in his NBA debut with the Los Angeles Lakers. Do you know him? Have you played against him before?

Holland: I believe I may have played against him…like maybe once. I didn’t really know him, but seeing the story…It’s just such a great story because it’s about perseverance. Like, who knows? I don’t know if I could’ve done it for 10 years. G-League is…three years felt like 10 (laughs), you know?

For 10 years, to deal with it day-in and day-out and be able to persevere through that and then finally get your opportunity? It’s a great story. And then to do what he did with that opportunity in that game—I was rooting for him, I know. It’s hard not to root for somebody like that that’s been through so much.

BI: That’s my next question as it relates to you—do you ever stop and think about how you gutted it out for those three years down there and the time before that?

Holland: Listen, everybody—the thing about it is, everybody has a journey they go through. To get to this level, you gotta persevere through something. There’s nobody out here on this court, whether it be from LeBron to anybody to me, they’ve gone through challenges to even be where they are.

It’s a great story. It’s a story that a lot of people have. They have to persevere through things to get what they want and that’s just…it’s life, really. But it’s good—to be able to see it on this level, it’s clearer when you see somebody that’s been [in the G-League] for 10 years and then they have this opportunity and they take advantage of that opportunity. It’s so clear how much [Ingram’s] had to overcome.

Maybe it’s not as clear as how much LeBron had to overcome or how much another player has to overcome. You don’t really see it because you think, ‘Oh they’re here. They’ve been here.’

BI: That’s true. So let me ask this: Through your journey personally, how many guys have you seen come and go because it was too much or too tough to get to the next level?

Holland: I think the G-League is one of the hardest routes to take to get to the [NBA]. There’s a lot of opportunity, but there’s a lot of people that want that opportunity.

BI: There’s what, 26, 27 teams next year. You’ve got to think at least 12 players on each roster…

Holland: Exactly. It’s really a dog eat dog world down there. And thing about it is, in college you have four years. You’re competing with everybody in the G-League. It’s about winning and it’s about being able to show what you can do to help a team win or help a team in any type of way. So it’s tough, it’s tough. You see guys that don’t make it.

But also, honestly in my time in the G-League, Quinn Cook was my roommate for two years. We had that guys that I saw that went through that and that put in the dues and they made it. Eric Moreland was my teammate last year. He’s up in Detroit. So like, you see these stories where people make it, but then you don’t see some stories. There’s teammates all around that don’t make it, that don’t have that same story—but they’re still playing. They’re still doing something.

BI: Which in that case, in the end, it’s worth it, right? You got the opportunity this year.

I know it’s not under the greatest circumstances because it’s the very last game of the year and a lot of guys are resting, but you went out there and had yourself a career-high. That had to feel good at least.

Holland: It always feels good to get that type of opportunity and to try and do at least something. I wish we could’ve won, but the only thing could do is the best I could do you know what I’m saying? That’s my only mindset, to go out there and not be timid, not be shy, just play my game and do the best that I could do. That’s the only thing that I could bring to the table. And the position I’m in, that’s all I try and do.

BI: On the six-game road trip on the west coast, you guys were battered by injuries and that led to some huge experience for you.

You got an opportunity to play big minutes in Portland, for example. I remember you had to match up with C.J. McCollum for a good chunk of time.

Holland: Listen, it’s all part of the experience. Everything I learned here, in the G-League, all my years overseas—it all’s gonna add up to getting better and better and experience, and when it’s all said and done, a career. It was fun. Actually getting to play and feel like…getting those meaningful minutes, somewhat meaningful minutes (laughs). It’s a good feeling because this is the level I wanted. This is what I wanted, so it’s just that opportunity alone is worth it.

BI: With the year as a whole—playing with Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Kevin Love, IT—guys that have left their mark, is that wild to you? That you’ve gotten to that point where you were teammates with these guys and you shared the floor with them?

Holland: Can I be honest? It’s not wild. ‘Cause I’ve always believed that I could play at this level, to be honest. It’s surreal in the fact that that I used to look at Dwyane Wade and LeBron and look at their highlights and be like, ‘Wow. These guys are amazing.’ I used to watch them before games, watch their highlights and wanna be like that. But as far as me, I always believed in my ability to be able to play at that level. Even if nobody else did, I think that’s something that, me personally, I believe. So when I’m doing it, I try not to be like, ‘It’s crazy’ because…

BI: Because you belong.

Holland: Exactly.

BI: That’s awesome. Alright, last one. What are your goals moving forward in the summer, after this playoff run of course and watching the guys?

Holland: My goal is just to get better as a player. Come back next year better than I was this year, learn, grow and watching this whole run just to try and absorb it. Try and learn and see what it’s like as they make this run. Just try and help any way that I can.

BI: What does getting better entail for you as far as on the court?

Holland: Well I wanna get better at…probably ball-handling, shooting, decision-making, defending, rotations. That’s stuff that you could get better at every year, I think. It’s always something that you can work on. And also just like working on my body, trying to come back better physically than I was this year.

It’s a process. Anything you try and get better at every single year, and when you can’t, that’s when it’s over. Always gotta try and keep developing. I don’t believe that there’s anytime where you could stop developing, any age. If you’re still playing, you could still get better at something. There’s still something you can get better at. Your game’s gonna change, but you still can develop and get better, and that’s the fun of it, for me at least.

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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