'I’ve always been able to do my part': Pacers forward Justin Holiday on missing games with COVID-19 and his streak ending
Holiday opens up on his decision not to be vaccinated and what it was like isolated away from the team and his family.
The first two weeks of December were unusual for Justin Holiday. Not only was he absent from work, but he had to stay in the basement of his home and away from family. Both are incredibly important to him — and he could do neither.
On Nov. 30, he became the first member of the Pacers this season to test positive for COVID-19. So he entered the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols and knew he’d be kept away from the team for at least 10 days. Fortunately, he was asymptomatic.
Twelve days later and after recording consecutive negative PCR tests 24 hours apart, Holiday rejoined the team on Dec. 12.
“I’m feeling good,” he said after practice. It was over a Zoom call since the team was still trying to get a handle on their positive cases — which, at that time, also included Rick Carlisle, Jenny Boucek and Zach Chu on the coaching staff. “Practice was OK. Just trying to get my wind back, trying to get used to being on the basketball court and moving around, by myself and with other people on the court.
“It was just hard altogether because I’ve never done this; I’ve never been away from my teammates. I’ve always been able to do my part.”
Holiday — who has started in 17 of 26 games and averaged 9.8 points per game — has been the Pacers’ most reliable and versatile player for a third straight season. He’s good as a starter and he’s OK with coming off the bench.
Before last year, he never had a multi-year NBA contract. His family moved around season after season and his oldest child is now in pre-K.
“I didn’t have a permanent place to live,” he said during training camp. “When I re-signed here and certified where I was going to be for a while — at least on paper — that made me comfortable and put me in a space to where I felt I could call this home. And that’s something I’ve always wanted to do, make the city I’m playing in home. And I’ve embraced that completely.”
He didn’t return home to California or spend the offseason elsewhere. He was one of the few to stay in Indianapolis. He was in the gym daily with his skills trainer by 6 a.m. because that’s when the court was available.
While isolated away from family the past two weeks, Holiday didn’t have a daily routine. He couldn’t do much, couldn’t leave the house, get treatment or even work out. Worst of all, he couldn’t be with his kids.