BOSTON — Kristaps Porzingis was supposed to be the new big name with the Celtics this season. However, things changed quickly on the eve of training camp as Boston acquired Jrue Holiday in a blockbuster deal with the Blazers.
The two newest Celtics got their first taste of playing together with a starting five at full strength in Tuesday’s win over the Knicks as Joe Mazzulla went with Porzingis at center and started small with Holiday and Derrick White in the backcourt. Porzingis (20 points) got plenty of open looks thanks to Holiday running the point throughout the night and the big man showed a great appreciation for his new teammate after the game for what he’s been through over the past month.
“Yeah, honestly, since he got here, he’s been looking for me in practices and games and we’ve been all kind of putting in our minds that we want to play for each other,” Porzingis said. “We wanna enjoy each other’s success and Jrue has been phenomenal, from the moment that he got here.”
It has been quite the whirlwind from the point guard, going indirectly from one contender to another in a span of one week. Holiday is still trying to get himself and his family settled in the region but that hasn’t stopped him for looking out for others according to Porzingis.
“Just thinking about his situation getting traded from one of the biggest rivals to the rival team, it’s crazy,” Porzingis said. “He was able to jump in with us and just be a great teammate from the first moment he got there and just be the same dog that he is on defense and then, making the game easy for me and for us offensively also. He’s been nothing but awesome with us.”
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The learning curve on the floor has been speedy as well with Holiday doing a little bit of everything (10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals vs. Knicks) as he cycles through different roles. While it remains to be seen whether he will start or come off the bench as a sixth man, Joe Mazzulla loves how he’s adjusting.
“Yeah, I mean, I think it’s just learning how to play with guys,” Mazzulla said. “Four guys that have been playing with each other for a long time, and again, all of our team just getting to know each other better on the court. It’s hard to simulate that when you’re practicing. You need those types of game reps. Jrue’s a smart guy. We have a willing team that’s willing to incorporate everybody and we just have to continue to learn about each other and how we can make each other better on the floor.”
The Celtics have one more preseason game left on Thursday night in Charlotte to iron out the kinks but Holiday’s already left a strong impression with his new teammates just a couple weeks in.