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Jrue Holiday's camp is determined to overcome his bad history with lower leg stress injuries

On Thursday, I had a chance to talk with Mike Guevara, Holiday's renowned personal trainer and longtime friend. Under his expert tutelage, the belief is Holiday has a great chance to turn to a happier page in his career.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Jrue Holiday's short career as a New Orleans Pelican can be defined as murky at best. In his two years, he has appeared in just 74 regular season games. He has consistently been plagued by a troublesome right tibia that has suffered a stress fracture, a stress reaction and untold hours of pain.

For a prolonged period, the answers were few and far between. Even Holiday himself remarked at the conclusion of last season that he was going to be seeking a lot of answers.

It's going to take time. Obviously, there are some things I'm going to need to strengthen; some things I'm going to need to find out. Hopefully mechanically or if it's just my leg or if it's part of the surgery. Some questions need to be answered."

So, what has exactly changed between then and now? A whole heck of a lot.


Five years ago, an exercise science major at California State University in Northridge was making a living by offering personal training services out of the trunk of his car and going park to park. Deciding he wanted something greater, Mike Guevara went job hunting online by googling "performance gyms" in the area. He came across Elite Athletics where he joined their staff as an intern. Not long thereafter, he joined the group at The Factory in the San Fernando Valley in California, and today he holds a lofty position: the director of performance.

During his first year at The Factory, he was introduced to the Holiday brothers through the agency representing them at the time. Jrue and Justin started working out with Mike and they hit it off instantly. Mike is proud of their relationship and quickly pointed out that he considers them as family, far from some run-of-the-mill regular business type of relationship.

"They're like family, first and foremost. It's not a client-business relationship; it's a a friendship with the three of them...It's one of those things that you just instantly click with somebody. They enjoy working with you and they just stay with you forever. I think this is going to be one of those instances; they'll probably be with me until they stop wanting to work out."

Mike G, a moniker coined by those around him, has worked with Jrue Holiday furiously this off-season, just as he's done the last four years. A lot of credit should be given to Jrue, though, because he possesses a level of determination that borders that of personal trainers.

"Jrue works his butt off in the off-season; he's a worker. You know, sometimes basketball players get a bad rap on working out off the court, but this dude goes like crazy both on and off the court. He has no stop sign in terms of compliance. He is willing to do anything and everything that I tell him."

One of the major focuses this summer was to increase the mobility in Holiday's ankle region. Mike G felt that increasing the dorsiflexion of his ankle would alleviate some of the pressure put on his problematic tibia. It appears many of his peers agree with this assessment as an inflexibility of the ankle could "create a negative knock-on effect all the way up the posterior chain with the serious potential to cause injury."

If you remember, Jrue and Justin posted Instagram videos back in early August of them working on pistol squats. This was one of many exercises implemented by Mike G to not only increase single leg strength but also improve various levels of flexibility including dorsiflexion, the ability of driving the knee beyond the toe.

One of the most fascinating things I learned from this interview was that Mike doesn't compartmentalize athletes. Many personal trainers are traditional in the sense that they adhere to strict regiments. For instance, they like to focus on their client's particular sport and design a program that centers on specific muscle groups.

Mike G examines a much broader picture, taking into account not only a player's sport but analyzing the totality of circumstances. He listens to clients to understand their goals and analyzes their movements to look for incorrect alignments, postures and muscle imbalances. He considers nutrition and rest as two of the biggest pitifalls that have gone on to fail many an athlete so he looks to always educate.

In a span of less than five years, Mike has worked with an impressive number of clients. In addition to the Holiday's, he has worked with Markieff and Marcus Morris and Ben McLemore. A number of NFL players have trained at The Factory, both in the off-season and with rookies preparing for the NFL combine, including Richard Sherman, Reggie Bush and Jordan Cameron.

However, I found Victoria Azarenka as his most interesting client. To take a female tennis player to the number one ranked player in the world speaks volumes about Mike G's teachings and understandings. He views everyone as athletes with the differences laying in their movements, the pressures exerted on certain body parts and such. It's all about proper management.

As far as the NBA, Mike admits it's one of the most punishing sports around and a number of it's athletes are not apt to handle the rigors, even in these modern times. The fault can lie with the athletes, teams and the league's operating procedures.

"It's overuse, man. These guys are asked to fly intercontinental, coast-to-coast and then play 35-40 minutes. Think about all the body's response to all that stress. On top of that, you go into the components of bad nutrition, poor sleep and poor recovery. You would think all of these things would be easily trumped by resources that most NBA teams have but that's not always the case. The effect of the schedule being so strenuous is definitely a major reason why so many injuries are popping up.

Nutrition is another huge reason why we're in an epidemic of soft-tissue injuries, sometimes non-contact. Literally, the soft tissue that comprise our bodies (skin, ligaments, tendons) are all built from the quality of food ingested. The old adage of you are what you eat is almost 100% true. I'm not sure everyone is eating the way they should be or if they even know how."

Thus, when Holiday was thrown into the fire at the start of last year, Mike couldn't help but raise an eyebrow. This fact was made even more poignant if you think back to Holiday claiming he was at 75% health during last year's Media Day.

"The reason why last year wasn't as successful as we had hoped was, and this is my opinion and no one else's, the minutes were not managed as well. If you can recall, he was doing a damn good job in the first few games of the season and he looked awesome. But also, his minutes were relatively high and in my opinion he was thrown into the fire too soon."

Early in the 2014-15 season, Mike remembers asking Holiday whether he was okay because he feared the minutes might have been too excessive so soon. He was aware that Holiday didn't enter the season in peak physical condition, and unfortunately, tragedy struck again.

However, that mentality seems to be well in the past now. As we've witnessed all summer and including yesterday's news, the Pelicans have alluded to the fact they will be monitoring Holiday much more closely.

In addition, they will be working with Mike G's group because they are on good speaking terms. For example, he is on his way to New Orleans today to talk about Holiday with the Pelicans staff.

"I'm visiting the Pelicans on Friday to go over his program and actually say hey, this works, this is what we feel is good for him. At the end of the day, Jrue knows what he is comfortable with so I feel like he should have a say about it with the Pelicans.

Graciously and thankfully, we have been blessed to have a staff (the Pelicans team) that is open to listen to what we're saying. A lot of times that's not the case cause people have pride and egos. In this instance, New Orleans has been awesome. The staff has been very open, and their strength coach and physical therapist have come to watch Jrue train {in California}. We've talked shop and exchanged {information}, and it's definitely been a healthy connection."

According to Mike G, Holiday will be monitored not only by his group, but the Pelicans as well. Playing professional basketball involves a number of detrimental forces, so it is vital to watch how the leg responds to the pounding on the court. As you might have guessed, he is in complete agreement with the minute restrictions.

"Yes. I think that you can never replicate the stress that is placed upon a body from an NBA season without playing in an NBA season. I don't care how hard we train. I don't care how often he plays on the court. It's a whole other mindset when you're on the floor in the midst of competition. When you're trying to win a regular season game, you're on like level 30. In practice, your intention is to be at level 30 but you're on level 7. You can't replicate game speed in practice and the amount of force and stress placed on the body."

Although he's never worked with another athlete who has specifically suffered from such an injury, Mike G is aware of how runners often suffer from similar issues. He thinks a combination of rest and their most recent routine will help Holiday emerge unscathed.

"I honestly feel better about the program that we implemented this year. I'm very confident this program is better than what I did with him last year. With New Orleans going through what happened last year, they will take a new approach and there is a new head coach. I think Jrue himself is going to do things differently. It's one of those things where you live and you learn."

Mike goes on to add he doesn't see any reason why he can't perform at an elite level for another 6-8 years and even give a Russell Westbrook or James Harden a run for their money because Holiday has only scratched the surface of his talent.

"With this type injury, it's literally rest and managing the program of rehab the best way you can. If you get too much stimulus within a short period of time, it's going to flare up again. You just have to be super careful with it."

If Holiday and all parties involved remain on course -- and nothing so far has indicated any deviation from the plan -- the belief is strong Jrue's career will have a resurgence similar to that of Stephen Curry, a player who dealt with repeated setbacks early in his career due to recurring issues in the same part of the body.

With Mike Guevara and the Pelicans standing in his corner together, it's not smart to place a bet against Holiday, let alone continue to confuse past history with the present. Multiple mistakes were made yet we should be cognizant that reality has altered significantly.

No, it's not optimal the Pelicans won't have the full services of Holiday for at least part of the upcoming season, but Holiday's health takes precedence. Take solace in the fact that he is on the right path which may one day may still lead to all those dreams we had of him several years ago.