When training camp began, New Orleans Pelicans power forward Ryan Anderson had a more noticeable bounce in his step than usual.
An outgoing type, he joked even more, was more forthcoming with his comments and smiled a lot more.
Clearly, Anderson, the team’s 3-point shooting ace, was happy, which could be attributed to his being back on the court after missing more than half of last season with a two herniated discs in his neck that required surgery and threatened to end his career.
However, that was only the part of it. Anderson has been able to escape a personal hell that began five months before his injury occurred, when his girlfriend, reality TV actress Gia Allemand, committed suicide in August 2013.
“I’ve learned a lot, and I’m finally at a point where I understand something that is impossible to understand,” Anderson said.
In the most recent Sports Illustrated edition, there’s an in-depth article concerning Allemand’s tragic death and Anderson’s ordeal trying to cope with it. Anderson said it’s been therapeutic not only for him, but for others, too.
“I can talk about it and talk about how I am healing, and talk about that experience and just be real,” he said. “The story was real, and I think people are responding to that, and they want to be real back. They’re publicly talking about their experience.”
That basketball could be taken away also made coping difficult. Less than two weeks before his injury occurred on Jan. 3, he’d said in an article in The Advocate that the court had become his sanctuary.
Now, he says, having basketball is a platform being given by God to talk about a serious issue. Most people are unaware that the number of suicides dwarf the number of murders in this country.
“What I’ve learned is that talking about it helps,” Anderson said. “It’s something that’s not talked about enough and has a huge misconception.
“Some people asked me if I was sad after reading that article (in SI),” he said. “I’m overjoyed. Trust me, I’ve felt all the pain in the world for a year.”
Tyreke Evans was working on a floater in the lane Thursday to go along with his hard drives to the basket and an improved touch that has him shooting well with range.
He has shot 12-of-23 (52.2 percent) on 3-point attempts this season after being at 27 percent in his career. The reason is his hard work after practices with assistant coach Fred Vinson, Evans said.
“He takes his time and breaks your shot down,” Evans said. “After a while working with him, you see he knows what he’s talking about. Then, when you get in games, the results are there.
“The main thing is he worked with my release and my footwork. We keep working at it. I think I can get even better.”
Coach Monty Williams said Vinson doesn’t get enough credit for the job he has done during his career as an assistant coach improving players’ jump shot.
“Fred is underrated,” Williams said. “I listen to all these guys around these teams and people around the league talking about their shooting gurus. (Vinson’s) ability to help guys with their shots has been tremendous for us.
“Unfortunately, he’s been tremendous for other teams, too, because the guys leave us and go on to good careers.”
Most notable among those players, according to Williams, is Grizzlies small forward Quincy Pondexter, who was sent to Memphis in the trade that had brought point guard Greivis Vasquez to New Orleans. Pondexter has been known to haunt New Orleans with his 3-point shooting.
“The guy that stands out is Quincy,” Williams said. “Because Quincy couldn’t really shoot it at all. Fred took him, and in a matter of a year, Quincy was knocking down big-time threes for Memphis a couple of playoffs ago. Quincy will tell you straight up, he owes a lot of that to Fred.”
Brooklyn Nets center/power forward Kevin Garnett, who is in his 20th NBA season, knows what he wants to do upon his imminent retirement.
“I want to buy the Timberwolves, put together a group and perhaps someday try to by the team,” said Garnett, who was drafted by Minnesota as the fifth overall pick in 1995 and spent 12 years there before being traded to the Boston Celtics in 2007.
Glen Taylor, the majority owner of the Timberwolves, is 73 and said two years ago he hoped to add a minority partner at some point who could succeed him as owner.
Garnett said he has ties to the team with Flip Saunders as coach, president and a minority owner of the T-wolves. Saunders, Garnett’s coach until 2005, said he thinks it could work.
“Everybody knows the relationship Kevin has with Minnesota is a great relationship,” Saunders said Friday at Smoothie King Center before the Pelicans-Timberwolves game. “He’s probably Glen Taylor’s favorite player. Everyone knows the passion he plays with.
“Kevin is going to somehow stay involved in the game at some point. I don’t think he’s going to be a coach. I don’t think he’s going to be a general manager. So, the only thing would be to be involved as an owner. He would be an owner with passion, but it takes a lot of money to be an owner.”
Just in on-court salary alone, Garnett has made $315 million during his NBA career. That should be enough to start a group.