It hasn't even been two months since Ryan Anderson discovered his girlfriend, former "The Bachelor" contestant Gia Allemand, unconscious on the floor of her New Orleans home following a suicide attempt that would result in her death the following day. An experience like that can take a person years to unpack, absorb and process, but a mere seven weeks later, the New Orleans Pelicans forward had to return to training camp and pivot toward reprising his role as one of the NBA's premier stretch fours in an attempt to help push his newly renamed team to a playoff slot for the first time since Chris Paul headed west. There is, to say the least, an awful lot on the 25-year-old big man's shoulders right now.
[Photo gallery: NBA girlfriend Gia Allemand dies at age 29]
The pace must feel frenetic beyond the telling of it, but at the Pelicans' Media Day session, Anderson did his level best to talk about how he's managed to get from that day to Monday ... "for a couple of minutes," according to Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "Then he wept."
"Something like that just doesn't happen for no reason," Anderson said, "and I know that ... there's ... a huge plan here ..."
His voice faded. Tears began to fall.
"A lot of people are going to be helped from this. And ... we're in the process of starting something great for her with her family, including my family, too," he said. "We have a huge plan to do something great, great in her name that's doing to help a lot of people. Already a lot of people ... and this is a topic that is not talked about enough, it is a huge problem. And we live in a society quite frankly now, and I wasn't planning on saying all this, but let's be honest here.
"We live in a society now where you've got to live up to something, you've got to be a certain person and you're not going to be accepted and every single person, every single person has something special about them. That's what I want to be my goal here. To have everybody here know that they're not alone. Whatever you're going through in life, you're not alone. I don't want to get into too much detail about her foundation, but it's going to be something great to prove that, to show people that they're not alone."
Allemand's mother, Donna Micheletti, confirmed the forthcoming foundation to the New York Daily News, although she too demurred on saying "too much now, because we're still a month or so away from announcing it." She said she watched Anderson's tearful press conference online, "and just loved him for it."
Brett Martel of The Associated Press has more:
"Every day is a challenge," [Anderson] said Monday, one the eve of the first practice of training camp. "It helps to be here. My family's with me. To be here with my teammates really helps a lot, but it's a roller coaster."
It's one, however, that he doesn't have to ride alone, according to frontcourt partner Jason Smith and Pelicans head coach Monty Williams:
"Obviously, he's going through a hard time right now. He definitely needs to lean on family, friends, teammates," Smith said. "He knows that we're all here for him. Going forward, we just have to be there for him in any way he needs, whether it's going out to the movies one night, whether it's just talking to him, whether it's just being around when he needs somebody around.
"At first, it was really hard to see him go through something like that,'' Smith continued. ''He's strong enough to continue to work through it." [...]
"I have heard him say it's been good just to be back around, and there's no manual for all this stuff, so everybody's kind of learning on the fly," Williams said. "The guys really care, the coaches have been unreal and Ryan is as solid as they come."
As evidenced in the video above, Anderson spoke at some length about the role his faith has played in his ability to put one foot in front of the other these past seven weeks — "It would be very, very hard to get through these steps if I didn't have God and Jesus Christ in my life" — and praised his Pelicans coaches and teammates for doing what they can to help him make it through the next seven months (and perhaps beyond, should the Pelicans be able to break through to the top eight in a tough Western Conference). He'll likely need every element of that support structure — his faith, his family, his friends, his teammates, his coaches and, to some degree, his fans — to keep propelling him forward.
While awful experiences like these often point toward how comparatively inconsequential the games we play and watch are, they also reveal just how important they can be as a coping mechanism, communal pressure release and chance to exhale. Here's hoping Anderson continues to be able to avail himself of basketball's opportunities for relief amid what must be an extraordinarily difficult burden to bear, and that the rest of the Pelicans can help their sharpshooting floor-spacer find his new normal, whatever that may be. We're rooting for you, Ryan.
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