When they’re little it can be over a toy. When they’re young men it can be over keys to the family car. When they’re on the court, well, Jrue Holiday, the New Orleans Pelicans guard and brother of Knicks guard Justin Holiday, said it best.
“Older brother doesn’t want to lose to little brother,’’ Jrue said. “Same way with little brother.”
But here’s the other endearing truth about brothers. When the chips are down, there is no one a brother turns to first.
Such has been the case with the Holiday brothers.
Jrue, 26, had a straight-line path to the NBA. He went to basketball blue blood UCLA, played one season, and was the 17th player picked in the 2009 NBA Draft.
Justin’s trek to the NBA looks like Lombard Street in San Francisco. After four years at Washington, Justin, 27, went undrafted in 2011. He’s played in Belgium, Hungary, Idaho, Santa Cruz and enough NBA teams to start his own league.
“I have a lot of respect for him,’’ Jrue said. “I think if people heard his story and what he’s been through, obviously they’ll respect him as well.”
“I mean, he loves basketball. He loves the game. He had a goal in mind and he wanted to reach that goal. Obviously, this is just one notch in his belt and I know he wants to do more.’’
He does, but the 6-foot-6, 185-pound Justin wouldn’t have persevered and made it to the Knicks without his brother’s support.
Every time he got on a plane to Europe, far from friends and family, or got cut, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Jrue was there.
“Way more than once,’’ said Justin, who had six points in 17 minutes of the Knicks 104-89 win over the Bulls Thursday night at The Garden. “There have been so many times that stand out to me.
“I’m being completely honest. It was a struggle for me. It was tough at times, but having him support me and having his desire and fire in me, it kept me going.’’
Justin also helped Jrue keep going through the most trying of times.
Jrue’s wife, Lauren, was pregnant with their first child when doctors found a benign tumor in her brain. They had to wait for Lauren, a former member of the USA soccer team, to deliver before surgery could be performed.
Lauren gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Jrue Tyler, in September. Doctors removed the tumor in late October. Justin knows full well that his ordeal pales in comparison to the one his brother and sister-in-law endured.
“I feel like I was able to be there and support him when he needed it,’’ Justin said. “The main thing I just focused on was not drowning him too much with questions or things like that.”
“Just be there for him when he needed me to, to not overwhelm him because at that time so many people were hitting him, so many people were asking him, ‘What’s going on?’ I tried to be the person that he could look to and know, ‘I’m not getting that from here. This is what I’m going through right now, just listen to me, support me.’ So that’s what I tried to do.’’
He did it well. Jrue does not like to talk about his family’s hardship, but he did say, “There are some things you can only talk to your family about.’’
MSGNetworks.com asked Jrue if he and Justin had their spats just as Knicks forward Willy Hernangomez had with his brother Juancho, a member of the Denver Nuggets, and center Marshall Plumlee had with his brothers Mason, a member of the Trail Blazers, and Miles, a member of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Brothers Justin and Jrue Holiday reminisce about growing up together, playing against each other and how they supported each other when Jrue's wife, Lauren, recovered from brain surgery.
“Same way, same way with us,’’ said Jrue. “Either one of us would end up hitting somebody. We’d go inside and 20 minutes later we’d be right back outside.”
“It happens to everybody who’s competitive, everybody wants to win.’’
“It happened,’’ Justin said with a laugh, “because he always started it.’’
Those would be fighting words if not for the fact that Justin and Jrue have each other’s back.
Justin has watched his niece grow up via FaceTime.
“It’s like I’m looking at my brother when he was a baby,’’ said Justin.
Jrue keeps an eye on Justin’s career, firmly believing that Justin will have a permanent home in the NBA.
“He’s a workhorse,’’ Jrue said. “He’s a gym rat. He makes me better. I make him better.’’
After the brothers had wrapped up a TV spot and strolled towards their respective locker rooms at The Garden, Jrue asked Justin his plans for Tuesday night. Justin didn’t realize the Pelicans were staying in town to play the Nets on Thursday night.
“For real?’’ said Justin.
Jrue nodded. Justin smiled. Brothers.