Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis shake hands during a win over Washington last season

Pelicans players express admiration and support for Lauren and Jrue Holiday

by Jim Eichenhofer

There are things in life that are simply much bigger, and much more important, than a game. That’s a lesson the New Orleans Pelicans have seen reinforced first-hand this offseason.

On Memorial Day weekend, guard/forward Bryce Dejean-Jones died under tragic circumstances, shot and killed when he inadvertently tried to enter the wrong Dallas apartment, thinking that it was his girlfriend’s. The Pelicans recently learned that Lauren (Cheney) Holiday – wife of point guard Jrue Holiday – has a brain tumor that must be removed by doctors, but only after the former USA women’s soccer standout gives birth to the couple’s first child.

Jrue won’t be on the floor when the Pelicans open training camp Sept. 24, as he deals with a much more significant concern in North Carolina, but Lauren and Jrue will never be far from New Orleans players’ thoughts. After a recent voluntary workout in the team’s Metairie practice facility, several Pelicans discussed their admiration for the couple and how often they are thinking about the Holidays.

“We’re definitely praying for the whole family, especially Lauren, and hopefully everything comes out OK,” said power forward Anthony Davis, an All-Star in all three seasons he’s played with Jrue. “He’s our starting point guard and is probably going to miss some games at the beginning of the season, but that’s not important right now.”

As a fellow California native, small forward Quincy Pondexter, 28, has probably known Jrue, 26, longer than any member of the Pelicans, dating back to when they were both on the AAU circuit over a decade ago.

“We first played against each other in 2004 or 2005,” Pondexter recalled. “I remember days going home, telling my family, ‘That kid’s going to be an amazing player.’ He works hard, he’s a great person. I just wish him success for the rest of his life.

“At the end of the day, we’re family on this team. This goes beyond basketball. (The Holidays) are a beautiful family, great people, so you want to support them in any way possible. We just want to be there for our brother and his wife and family.”

“It’s a brother who is in need of support, for him and his wife,” center Alexis Ajinca said. “They’re going through a very rough thing right now. When someone is hurting in the family, you always want him to know you have his back.”

Since joining the Pelicans on a 10-day contract in March, point guard Tim Frazier has credited Jrue with helping him adjust to the team’s system and giving him valuable pointers. Frazier has leaned so heavily on Jrue that Frazier sometimes wonders if he’s started to overly badger Jrue with frequent queries.

“Even though I might be annoying sometimes asking him all these questions, any time I get a chance, I will seek his advice,” Frazier said, smiling. “He’s always been there for me. He was huge for me, especially in my 16 games here (at the end of 2015-16), and even now.”

Like many of his teammates, Frazier is staying in contact with Jrue partly through texting, keeping his teammate up to date on what’s happening in New Orleans. Even under the most difficult personal circumstances – and without being able to physically be on the court with the Pelicans right now – Frazier said the 2013 Eastern Conference All-Star will still make an invaluable contribution to the team.

“He’s always got some advice for me, to keep me going in the right direction,” said Frazier, a third-year pro who’s played for three NBA teams and had stints in the D-League. “Jrue has done some things that I want to do in my career. And I know he wants to continue to grow in his career. We both want the best things for the team, so any chance I get to hear what he’s thinking, I do that. He’s been so willing and able to teach tidbits to me and some of the other guys. It’s a testament to what kind of man he is.

“Just to see what they are going through and how they’re handling the situation, it’s unbelievable how strong they are. That’s someone you look up to, a man you want to be like, someone who’ll protect and be there for his family no matter. We’re praying for them and their entire family.”

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