News — July 12, 2017 at 5:49 am

Justin Holiday fits description of ‘right veteran’ needed for rebuild


Bulls management has said it needs the right veterans surrounding the plethora of young players who will be featured in its full rebuild.

"My role, which is kind of weird to say … I’m one of the oldest people on the team, which is a first for me," Holiday said Tuesday on a conference call. "So I guess I can fall into some type of leadership role to help some of the younger guys because I have been through so much."

Indeed, Tuesday offered an opportunity for Holiday, 28, to reflect. Undrafted out of Washington in 2012, Holiday has played in the NBA’s Development League, Belgium and Hungary. And after a strong showing for the Bulls late in the 2015-16 season and a 7.7 points-per-game average as a rock-solid reserve playing all 82 games for the Knicks last season, he has earned security in the form of a two-year, $8.9 million deal.

But anyone who thinks security may breed complacency doesn’t know Holiday.

"To get to where you’re wanted by teams and know you have worked hard to get there, it is a great feeling. But … because of everything I’ve been through, I know I’m not done yet," Holiday said. "I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied as a basketball player.

"There’s a certain fire I have because of all the things I’ve gone through. … That fire will never leave me. I’m going to give my all every time I’m on the floor because I have been on the other side. I know what it’s like not to be in the NBA, so I would never take that for granted."

Photos from the Bulls’ summer-league games in Las Vegas.

Holiday, who can play shooting guard or small forward, said he enjoyed his 27-game stint for the Bulls after they acquired him from the Hawks in the February 2016 Kirk Hinrich trade. That made his free agency decision easy, even if he was caught off guard when the Bulls included him in the June 2016 Derrick Rose trade with the Knicks.

"Everything happens for a reason," Holiday said. "I was able to go to New York and have a good season and get back here."

The Bulls envision the 6-foot-6 Holiday as an athletic wing who can defend and play multiple positions.

That his emergence came during a Bulls season that featured the franchise missing the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons and a Knicks season that featured plenty of drama should make him an ideal personality to handle a rebuild.

"Everyone assumes it’s going to be very tough for us. But that’s what makes you grow," Holiday said. "It’s not the good times that mold you. It’s the times you struggle and how you deal with it. We’re going to come with the approach of whatever struggles we get hit with, we’re going to get through it as a team and try to learn as a team and move forward that way."

Holiday also downplayed the outward perception that the Knicks were a dysfunctional mess last season, at least in the locker room.

"On the inside, it wasn’t as chaotic as it seemed," he said. "Especially between us teammates, the players in the locker room, we all enjoyed one another. We just had a tough year. Yeah, there was a lot of stuff outside watching the media and things, especially with what Melo (Carmelo Anthony) had to deal with. But I did enjoy my time with them, being able to battle each even though we didn’t do as well as we wanted to."

Still a restricted free agent, Nikola Mirotic nevertheless posted a picture to his Twitter account of himself with Cristiano Felicio and Holiday with their arms around each other on Tuesday.

"There’s just something about the basketball world when you have teammates you battle with — and I was only here for two months — it’s like we’re brothers," Holiday said. "Right when I see them again, like when I saw Niko, we’re hugging each other. Same with Cris and even some of the coaching staff and training staff I’ve seen since I’ve been back, all the familiar faces are like family to me here. It feels great to be back."

Twitter @kcjhoop

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