Justin Holiday has lived the life of a basketball nomad. He’s traveled to Belgium and Hungary to hold on to his professional dreams, played for roster spots in summer league after summer league, and has been waived by four different NBA teams before his 27th birthday.
To which the Knicks say: Take your coat off, Justin. Have a seat. Stay a while.
Holiday was lauded by his coach and teammates after the Knicks’ 93-77 win over the Mavericks Monday night — a game in which he scored 16 points with four rebounds and three assists. But the stat sheet hardly tells the whole story: He was pivotal in sparking the Knicks in a third-quarter surge and steadied a team that often has looked overwhelmed on defense.
He was plus-30 for the night and after people were talking about how good this team can look when it goes small.
(Kristaps Porzingis had to field more than a few questions about his future as a center.)
“He continues to work,” Hornacek said of Holiday, who came to New York as part of the trade for Derrick Rose. “The good thing is that he is fundamentally sound as far as things we want to do defensively. He did a nice job on Harrison Barnes tonight. He is always in the right help position. We talk all the time [about how] he makes the right plays. He knows the right stuff. He doesn’t have things that [always] show up on the stat sheet, but he is right there.”
Holiday played the entire third quarter as Hornacek sat Noah. The new look worked, and while Hornacek said not to expect any permanent changes, he did say there would be a time and a place for shifting things around in the future.
There are benefits to switching things up, Holiday said: “One, watch and see — amazing things happen. But also, two, I’m open a lot. It gives me opportunities to be able to step into the shot and knock down a routine jump shot that I practice every day.”
Holiday said the rocky road he’s traveled makes everything sweeter. He sees himself as a “defensive energy” first and hopes his energy is contagious. It certainly was in the third quarter, which the Knicks dominated, 31-12.
“We were there for each other,” he said. “We kept guys in front of us without fouling and that’s something we’ve struggled with . . . Every time I’m on the floor, I know the one thing I can control is my effort and my energy. Shots may not fall at times. Usually defensively you can control certain things but the energy and the effort, that’s what I try to bring . . . I’m going to try to make sure I bring it every night.”
Maybe that effort is enough. Maybe, Holiday said, he’ll finally find a place to rest his head after Belgium, Hungary, Golden State, Philadelphia and all the places in between.
“My whole career, I’ve bounced around,” he said. “I’ve worked to get to where I am and finding a home is something that I want to do and hopefully it can be here.”