With watery eyes and long pauses to compose himself, Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson didn't even try to mask how rough the past month-and-a-half has been for him since his girlfriend, reality television actress Gia Allemand, committed suicide.
"Every day is a challenge," he 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."
Anderson, a 6-foot-10, former California standout who can make 3-pointers in bunches, has had a promising start to his NBA career. As he enters his sixth season, he's trying to summon the emotional strength to continue thriving on court, and hopes that by doing so it will empower him to honor Allemand's memory in a way that benefits others who may be suffering the way she did.
Although Anderson was not yet ready to go into detail, he said he will help the Allemand family launch a foundation, named for his late girlfriend, which will help "everybody know that they're not alone."
Allemand, who appeared on ABC's "The Bachelor" and "Bachelor Pad," died in mid-August at age 29.
"Something like that just doesn't happen for no reason and I know that for 100 percent," Ryan said, his voice cracking as a tear dripped off his left cheek. "I know that there's a huge plan here. ... I know that a lot of people are going to be helped through this."
"This is a topic that is not talked about enough and it is a huge problem," Anderson continued. "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 (always) going to be accepted. Every single person has something special about them. That's what I want to be my goal here."
Anderson said his faith in God, his family, and his basketball team have helped him begin to move forward.
One of his teammates and friends, forward Jason Smith, stood behind Anderson, placing a hand on his shoulder in an effort to help him maintain his composure and get the words out.
Smith, who attended Allemand's funeral, said Anderson has been making progress working through his grief.
"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."
This season holds a lot of promise for the Pelicans, who've made offseason moves to acquire All-Star point guard Jrue Holliday and versatile guard Tyreke Evans from Sacramento. Forward Anthony Davis has bulked up by nearly 20 pounds and is brimming with confidence heading into his second season. High-scoring shooting guard Eric Gordon said he is the healthiest he has been in three seasons, and is looking forward to playing with a team talented enough to make a postseason run.
Anderson averaged 16.2 points and 6.4 rebounds last season. His 213 3-pointers were second most in the league. Only Stephen Curry had more with 272.
Numerous Hornets players have been working out voluntarily for several weeks leading up to training camp, and when coach Monty Williams encouraged Anderson to join them, he did.
"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."
Williams said he hopes basketball can be for Anderson "what it's always been: Not just work, but the thing that he loves to do."
"There's so many things that we take for granted that come from basketball and I think he'll probably appreciate them more than anybody because of what he's been through," Williams said.