Jrue Holiday could have become bitter about his life in New Orleans.

He transformed himself into a phenomenal two-way guard over the course of 11 NBA seasons amid organizational churn. He thought he would finally settle into a steady run of Western Conference playoff appearances through his prime when he signed a five-year, $126 million deal with the Pelicans in 2017, a choice he said was 90 percent because of the presence of Anthony Davis.

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Instead, he was blindsided by the departure of Davis, the franchise cornerstone, as well as the accompanying drama and roster fallout. He is 29 years old and will likely deteriorate under the nightly load he carries on each side of the ball before he has the chance to return to the postseason as a primary roster piece.

But Holiday does not publicly exude resentment. Not for his franchise. Not for his new cast of mostly younger teammates. Not even for Davis, whom he still calls a friend. He seems to understand his role as a baton passer: Probably not the man who spearheads a deep playoff run, but perhaps the one who teaches his understudies the correct approach so they can thrive when it's their time in the future.

Holiday logged 35 minutes in a 115-104 win over the Trail Blazers on Tuesday night, and he's averaged 36 minutes since the start of the 2017-18 season. He dropped a typical 22-10-5 line on Portland and effectively guided an ever-changing lineup missing Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Derrick Favors, not to mention No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, who has yet to debut.

Afterward, he offered strong praise of less-heralded teammates such as Kenrich Williams and Jaxson Hayes, inexperienced players who have been asked to take on starting roles until others get healthy.

"[Holiday is] the backbone of our team," coach Alvin Gentry said after the game. "Our guys are going to follow suit. When he guards and does what he did tonight, and plays with the effort, then the guys are going to follow."

Holiday connected well with Brandon Ingram, a key return piece of the Davis trade who himself was in his first game back from injury. Each praised their budding chemistry following the contest.

But Holiday delivered his best pass of the night to Hayes, who benefited from the guard's court vision throughout a breakout performance.

He also introduced Trail Blazers rookie Nassir Little to his tireless handles and explosiveness attacking the bucket.

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But regardless of how well Holiday plays (and leads), the Pelicans will almost certainly miss the playoffs. Portland did not have Damian Lillard on Tuesday, and it still kept the game competitive until late. Holiday can only hold so much weight, even if he does play about 36 minutes each contest.

Over time, though, New Orleans hopes what Holiday brings on the court and off will transfer

to its newer faces.

Williams, a second-year forward, has gained confidence from the way Holiday speaks about him around the team and to reporters. After beating the Trail Blazers, Holiday repeatedly called Williams underpaid and underappreciated. Williams grabbed 13 rebounds, snagged three steals and recorded a block in his 34 minutes of work.

"Jrue's my guy," Williams told reporters. "He always shows love. He always hypes me up and stuff. So I really appreciate Jrue."

Holiday's legacy could be serving as a mentor for an array of Pelicans.

For Williams. For Ingram. For Ball. For Williamson.

It's a role nowhere near as glamorous as Holiday's expired dream of deep playoff runs alongside Davis. It does not inspire the same level of outside-the-locker-room gratitude or recognition. Holiday's embrace of an on-the-fly rebuild, then, offers insight into the deeply personal imprint he hopes to leave on the game.

He could have become bitter. He decided to make those around him better.