OKLAHOMA CITY — Much like Monty Williams did for him, New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson sat Thursday at Williams’ home crying.
Williams’ wife Ingrid died Wednesday from injuries suffered in a multiple-vehicle car crash Tuesday in Oklahoma City, leaving the visiting Pelicans heartbroken for their former head coach who is now an assistant with the Thunder.
Anderson and other teammates visited Williams before Thursday’s game against the Thunder.
“It was good to even find a way through conversation even to see him laugh for a second in the midst of something so horrific,” Anderson said “Like joking about basketball stuff. It was obviously devastating. There were a lot of tears today. But just to be able to kind of fight through that and have some kind of strength through that is amazing. He’s such an amazing guy.”
On a somber night, the Thunder won 121-95, torching the Pelicans defense behind the Thunder’s All-Star duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who each scored 23 points apiece.
But even with the result, the focus remained on the Williams family for Anderson.
He had grown particularly close with the family following the suicide of his girlfriend, Gia Allemand, in 2013. Monty was the first person he called and he pulled Anderson from her apartment, took him to the family’s home and stayed up with him all night crying and talking.
Ingrid had a special impact, too, having been through a suicide of her brother.
“I know if she was still here today, she’d still be there for me,” Anderson said. “She will always have a special place in my heart and the Williams family will also.”
Thunder fans paid tribute to Ingrid before the game, placing flowers and cards around a picture of her outside Chesapeake Energy Arena. Some left messages for the family, some just stopped by to pay tribute in their own way and some signed a giant card in the lobby.
A moment of silence was held before the game, which Monty did not attend. Funeral arrangements have also yet to be announced.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said he noticed Wednesday the team was struggling to play. Thursday may have been even harder.
“She had even more impact maybe with the mothering that she did with the guys and the type of person that she is,” Gentry said. “She wanted everybody to feel like they had a home away from home. It speaks volumes for the kind of person and family that they were.”
For the Pelicans the past four years, they did feel at home around the Williams family. Ingrid was at each game with their five kids, smiling and offering encouragement.
“After the game, she would always come and talk to people,” center Alexis Ajinca said. “You could see the kids happy and she was always smiling. It’s sad to see it happen to such nice people.”
Ajinca added it was hard to focus on the game.
“It is difficult,” he said. “I’m not going to lie to you, everybody thinks about it. Everybody who has been around for more than one year definitely thinks about it.”
The Thunder certainly struggled without their current mentor. Durant struggled to find the words during a shoot-around, eventually walking away.
Former Pelicans guard Anthony Morrow found the words, saying, “In my opinion, God called one of his true angels back home.”
For Anderson, Ingrid was certainly an angel and inspiration.
“Monty and her were just like a dynamic, powerhouse of a couple to be around,” Anderson said. “The best example of a relationship I’ve ever seen. Whenever I had experiences with her, it was nothing but encouraging, positive and helpful.
“And I think Monty would say the same thing. She helped Monty through every experience he’s ever been through. She made him the man he is today and Monty is the strongest man I know. Even today, seeing him, he’s obviously devastated but he’s trying to be strong for his family.”