Holiday pick makes clear future is not now

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Sixers GM Ed Stefanski introduces first-round pick Jrue Holiday during Friday's press conference. (James Heaney / Staff Photographer)

The 76ers came out of the draft last night confident about the identity of their point guard five years from now.

As for the coming season, that's a bit more uncertain.

"We're still a work in progress," assistant general manager Tony DiLeo said.

DiLeo had his head under the hood of this repair job on a nightly basis last season, so he knows better than most how far the team is from being really road ready.

As much as the Sixers say they like Jrue Holiday of UCLA, taken with the 17th pick of the first round, they don't think the 19-year-old will make much of a difference immediately.

Holiday, whose first name is pronounced "Drew" - it's a long story - becomes the first member of the team to be born in the decade of the 1990s. If that makes you feel a little old, at least you can understand how the Sixers might not want to rush him further.

"We weren't looking at him to really come in and make an impact for next season," DiLeo said. "We're looking at the future with him. We think we got a good one."

This is what they do for a living, so we'll have to take their word for it now. There just isn't much paper on Holiday, who played only one out-of-position season at UCLA. He didn't seem that impressive at the Wachovia Center when the Bruins barely sneaked past Virginia Commonwealth in the first round of the tournament and lost by 20 to Villanova in the second.

For his part, Holiday believes he can play and contribute right away. That's good and that's what you want to hear, but the Sixers think Holiday will be worked in slowly, the same way the team has worked in Thaddeus Young and Marreese Speights, their top picks in the previous two drafts.

Which leaves - still leaves - the question of who will mostly be playing the point this season. It also leaves the question of when exactly this future of which they speak will actually morph into the present.

If nothing else, the Sixers sent a clear message last night that the 2009-10 season will be all about laying another row of bricks in the wall, but not the top row. Not yet.

They can begin to negotiate with Andre Miller next week, but Miller is typically enigmatic at this time of year, and that's if you can find him. Last year, when the same dance was taking place, even Miller's agent couldn't locate him and - by waiting to sign until the economy fell apart late in the summer - Andre cost himself a lot of money.

He might come to the table right away this time. He might have his mind set on playing somewhere else. He might want to mull the decision a while longer. The Sixers simply don't know for sure, and that means they don't know who will be their starting point guard.

In a way, since the team doesn't figure to be a contender immediately, it might not be the worst thing to throw the teenager into the water and let him learn to swim. But new coach Eddie Jordan, as he installs his precise pass-and-cut motion offense, would certainly prefer a steady veteran with the ball in his hands.

That defines Miller, and it could be that the Sixers have put their incumbent in an amazingly strong negotiating position simply by what they're trying to pull off with the new coach and new scheme.

It could also be, of course, that the Sixers have other ideas. Nine point guards were taken with the first 21 picks of the draft last night, which means that a bunch of incumbents are going to be pushed out of jobs, or might be more available.

When the Magic sent Rafer Alston to the Nets yesterday in the Vince Carter deal, for instance, does that mean New Jersey might consider moving Alston again? The Nets have Devin Harris, so they don't have a screaming need for a point guard.

The Sixers do have that need. Not for five years from now. But for right now.

As for five years from now, it's Holiday. At least that's how they told it last night. He has the size to play either guard position and to be useful in those role reversals that take place all the time in the Princeton offense. He didn't shoot exceptionally well at UCLA last season - and only a worrisome 31 percent from the dinky college three-point line - but that can develop. The Sixers expect it to, anyway.

So, on a night in which the Sixers were intent on getting a good backcourt player, they did. Just not for now.

At the moment, they don't have either a point guard or a shooting guard for the season that is bearing down on them.

But the future is bright. That's the story. Unfortunately, it is also . . . well, out there somewhere in the future.

 


Contact columnist Bob Ford

 

at 215-854-5842 or bford@phillynews.com.

Read his blog at http://philly.com/postpatterns.

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