By: Greg Levinsky
BOSTON – Prior to tipoff between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers in a preseason game on Tuesday night, Celtics assistant general manager Mike Zarren chuckled with an opponent.
Clad in the Cavalier wine and gold, 2011 Boston University graduate John Holland chopped it up with Zarren prior to beginning his second campaign as a two-way player for the Cavaliers and the G League’s Canton Charge.
“It’s always good to see a guy that you had on your team before, but with John there’s that added connection because he was here at BU and we scouted him so much,” Zarren said. “Like a lot of guys that used to be here, you get to be friends with him and it’s good to see them.”
In a rare circumstance, Holland made his NBA playoff debut before appearing in a regular season game. After graduating from BU, Holland played professionally in Spain, France and Turkey before returning stateside in 2015. Holland played for the Canton Charge that season, one that he ultimately ended as a member of the Boston Celtics. He appeared in one contest in the 2016 playoffs for the Celtics.
Holland still greatly appreciates the Celtics organization.
“The Celtics gave me the first opportunity,” Holland said.
Former @TerrierMBB star John Holland getting a shot up pregame before the @cavs start preseason play with a contest against the @celtics. Story for @WTBUSports to come later on pic.twitter.com/cahyMn2uXJ
— Greg Levinsky (@GregLevinsky) October 2, 2018
The two-way contract between an NBA team and its respective G League affiliate was implemented prior to last season. Holland took advantage of this new system, inking a deal of this nature last fall. He appeared 24 games with the Cavaliers in 2017-18 and averaged 2.3 points per game, including a 21-point effort against the New York Knicks in the season finale.
Holland also played in 23 games for the Charge. He averaged 18.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game last year in the G League.
“It’s always the same goal every time I step on the court, it’s to get better, play the best I can whenever I get an opportunity,” Holland said. “No matter what court I’m on, I’m just trying to play the best I can.”
Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue and teammate Channing Frye lauded Holland for his unbridled motor.
“He plays hard every single night” Lue said. “You know you’re going to get that from John.”
Frye, who is beginning his 15th NBA season said Holland “has a niche” and belongs in the NBA.
“I love that guy, he’s cool as sh*t,” said Frye. “He works his tail off – he deserves to be up here.”
Lue praised the swingman for his “versatility.”
“John can play at the two, three and four,” Lue said. “He can shoot the basketball and defend it.”
After his stint with the Celtics in April of 2016, Holland returned to Canton in December after mulling over his options. Named the G League’s Impact Player of the Year and G League Third-Teamer after averaging career-high 22.9 points, Holland earned the two-way deal for last season and secured it once again for the 2018-19 campaign.
“This whole organization has been really good to me,” Holland said. “Not only the Cavs, but also the Charge and the G League.”
Two-way players may spend a maximum of 45 days with their NBA parent club. Only players in their fourth NBA season or earlier can be on a two-way deal. He was the first Cavalier to be signed to a two-way deal.
Salary for two-way players begins at a base of $77,250, prorated for days spent in the G League. According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, two-way players can earn up to $385,000 including a prorated NBA Rookie Salary for time spent with the parent club.
Not only is Holland a versatile player on the court, but he understands he needs to embrace wherever he is playing and perform. This humility has caught his teammates attention.
“There’s guys that are just ahead of him,” Frye said. “He’s just a guy that’s constantly staying in shape, honing his craft and doing great things down in the G League.
“He just continues to work and do his due diligence. It’s been awesome having him here.”
Greg Levinsky can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregLevinsky