NEW ORLEANS -- Jrue Holiday was sporting that endearing smile of his as he hugged and talked to former teammates and staff members of the Sixers' organization, those who played an integral part of his life during his first four years in the NBA.
Saturday was the first time Holiday faced the Sixers since being traded to the Pelicans on draft night in June.
“Evan (Turner), Thad (Young) and Spencer (Hawes),” Holiday rattled off pregame when asked what would be the strangest thing about being on the opposing team. “I feel like I grew up with them and now I get a chance to play against them and hopefully beat them.
“Everybody here (New Orleans) made it very comfortable for me. The type of players that we have made it very inviting and especially the staff and the office people -- really, everybody. It has actually been a pretty easy transition.”
The Pelicans, who cruised past the Sixers, 135-98 (see story), came into Saturday with a 3-6 record while Holiday was off to his own slow start with his new team.
He entered Saturday shooting less than 40 percent from the floor, averaging 13.8 points per game -- four fewer than a year ago -- and his assists are slightly down from his All-Star season a year ago in Philadelphia.
However, Holiday sees a bigger picture: a bright future.
“I love my teammates,” Holiday said. “Eric Gordon, Anthony Davis, Robin Lopez at the time, Ryan Anderson, Jason Smith I played with [in Philadelphia]. I played against [Anthony Davis]. I grew up playing against Eric. They had great firepower and then they added Tyreke (Evans).
“It was a message from God that this is where I am supposed to be,” Holiday said. “They are starting something new and it is cool to be a part of something new.”
And like the Sixers, a big man is the focal point of where the Pelicans' franchise is headed. Davis, like Nerlens Noel, came out of Kentucky. He was selected No. 1 overall in the spring of 2012.
Last year as a rookie, Davis missed 18 games because of injury and ended the season averaging 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds.
This year, he is averaging 20.9 points per game and 11 rebounds.
“That boy is good -- real good,” Holiday said of Davis. “That is all you can say. He has great work ethic, great character. I don’t know if people realize how hard he worked in the offseason. I was probably with him a month and a half, and seeing how much he wants this is pretty exciting.”
Brett Brown knows his team could get there -- in time. It is harder to remember that when your team is struggling as the Sixers are, but if Brown goes back to the summer, there was a feeling of exhilaration when the Sixers were wheeling and dealing on draft night.
“I love draft night,” Brown said. “To sit in the back of a room and to let a year’s worth of work from multiple, multiple people all over the world -- scouts international and domestic -- share their opinion and bam: five minutes you are on the clock making a decision that can send your franchise this way or that way.
“At that stage I had been rumored for this position and so you sit back and you wonder what is going to happen. Which way are things going to go? And a decision was made that evening that greatly influenced the direction of the club.
“Sam Hinkie and the owners had decided a path and a plan. That decision was a clear reflection of how they intended on building the program -- it was black and white.”