Jrue Holiday is one such player, as Collins quickly discovered.

In 2011, as the Sixers entered their first-round playoff series against the Heat, perhaps the league's best defensive team and easily its highest-profile squad.

Collins realized the Sixers' only hope lay in productive possessions. He also realized that his 20-year-old point guard would have to play as many as 40 minutes every night.

Thanks to creative eavesdropping, he knew the latest tech toy might motivate Holiday.

"Make you a deal, Jrue," said Collins the day before the series began. "No turnovers tomorrow night, I'll buy you that new iPad."

The Sixers hung within a point until the final 2 minutes. Holiday had 19 points, five assists, five rebounds, three steals . . . and zero turnovers.

And, the next day, one new iPad 2. "I love gadgets," Holiday said. "I still have that one."

Collins found his connection with Holiday. The team and the town are the better for it.

Holiday is a product of his generation, more comfortable texting than talking, loathe to trust, eager to excel. It works for him. He has spent the past two seasons trying to replicate that night in Miami. More often than not, he succeeds.


Holiday will play in his first All Star game Sunday in Houston. When the Sixers drafted him in the first round in 2009 they hoped he one day would be a star; perhaps even by now, his fourth season. All along, he expected stardom to come.

All he needed was the chance.

The Sixers now sit with Holiday where the Eagles sat in 2000 with Donovan McNabb, where the Phillies sat in 2007 with Ryan Howard. Both of them, like Holiday, came from solid families of modest means. Both of them, like Holiday, needed polishing.

Both of them led their franchises to their highest heights.

With some help, Holiday, 22, shows every sign of guiding the Sixers back to the top of the NBA.

Holiday is averaging 19 points, 8.9 assists and is shooting 45.2 percent from the field, all career bests. Holiday led the Sixers that night in Miami and, last season, he led their late-season push into the playoffs, all the way to the seventh game of the second round.

Holiday endured the hot mess coach Eddie Jordan made of Holiday's rookie season, which included a bizarre, midseason free-agency appearance by Allen Iverson. Holiday started only 51 games as a rookie. He hated it.