In more ways than one, family important to Jrue Holiday in decision to return to Pelicans

Unintentionally underscoring the primary theme of Jrue Holiday’s Thursday press conference – which marked his official re-signing with New Orleans – the youngest member of the audience occasionally made her voice heard. As the eight-year NBA guard and four-year member of the Pelicans discussed how “family” was an important factor in his decision to remain the Crescent City, Holiday’s 10-month-old daughter cried briefly, as infants do.

“Hi J.T.!” Holiday said, stopping in mid-sentence to say hello to his little girl, also named Jrue.

The 27-year-old backcourt player was in the midst of explaining how the Pelicans organization’s family-first atmosphere and support during a difficult time for he and his wife were part of why he signed a five-year contract early in free agency.

Holiday’s wife, the former USA soccer standout Lauren, was diagnosed with a brain tumor last summer, while pregnant with the couple’s first child. She underwent successful surgery to remove the tumor, after giving birth to a daughter in September. As a result, the Pelicans gave Jrue their blessing to join the team after first taking care of Lauren post-surgery; Jrue ended up missing the first 12 games of the 2016-17 regular season.

“The city of New Orleans has definitely embraced us since we’ve been here,” Holiday said. “Obviously my family has been through a little bit of a hiccup; the organization, Dell (Demps) as well, has definitely helped take care of us as a family. Coming back here was an easy choice. I’m glad to come back for the next five years.”

“Jrue Holiday is a good man, a family man, a person we’re thrilled to have in our organization,” Demps said. “On the court, we feel Jrue defines a two-way player. We believe his best years are ahead of him.”

The 2013 Eastern Conference All-Star also highlighted the bond he’s developed with his New Orleans teammates since coming to Louisiana during the ’13 offseason. Holiday said numerous Pelicans had urged him to re-sign in free agency; Demps joked that some players even gave Holiday some extra per-diem money during the season.

“My teammates have talked to me multiple times,” Holiday said, recounting the teamwide push for him to stay on the roster. “In a good way. They were very supportive. The guys to me are like brothers.

“I can’t get into specifics. There may have even been threats,” he joked. “It was pretty much, we want you back. I guess when you’re wanted, that makes you feel good.”

Asked how difficult his decision was to return to New Orleans, Holiday waved off the idea, saying he thought about some of the personal relationships he’s made with the Pelicans.

“There was a little bit of stress, in thinking, if I leave I’ll be disappointing so many people I care for,” he said.

Ultimately, Holiday focused on a stretch during the second half of last season when the Pelicans seemed to click on the floor. After a rough initial adjustment period for New Orleans, in-season pickup DeMarcus Cousins and Holiday, the Pelicans went 8-3 during one segment of March, a stretch that included multiple big performances by Cousins, Holiday and Anthony Davis.

“DeMarcus was a (February) pickup last year, but we grew together within that stint of time,” Holiday said. “With the talent we have on our team, I’m really excited.

“Once we started to gel, I could really see this going well. Obviously in previous years we’ve had injuries, and that hasn’t helped us. But all I see moving forward is how we meshed last year and how fun it was to win.”

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