Jrue Holiday to be out to support wife, ex-soccer star Lauren Holiday

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Monday, September 5, 2016

New Orleans Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday is set to miss the start of the 2016-17 season because his pregnant wife, former U.S. women's national team soccer player Lauren Holiday, has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Lauren Holiday, a two-time gold medalist and 2015 World Cup winner, will undergo surgery about six weeks after the birth of the couple's first child. The tumor, which is benign, was found on the right side of her brain in late June.

"Devastating," Jrue Holiday told the New Orleans Times-Picayune of the diagnosis, adding that his wife has numbness on the right side of her face because the tumor is pressing on a nerve.

The child's due date is in mid-October, but the Holidays plan to induce labor earlier in order to expedite Lauren Holiday's surgery. The couple plans to reside in the Raleigh, North Carolina, area, near the Duke University medical specialists who will handle the surgery.

Even so, Jrue Holiday will miss an indefinite number of games while he supports his wife's recovery and cares for their newborn.

"My family comes before basketball," Jrue Holiday told the Times-Picayune. "I'm obviously blessed to play this game and be in the position I am in, but my wife is the most important thing in the world to me. She comes before anything else."

Doctors believe that Lauren Holiday, 28, should return to full health and that the child should not be affected by the tumor, according to the newspaper.

Pelicans general manager Dell Demps expressed support for Jrue Holiday's decision in a statement Sunday.

"We are all praying for a healthy delivery of their first child and a successful surgery for Lauren," Demps said. "Furthermore, we ask everyone to respect the Holiday's privacy at this time."

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry also declared his and the team's support for the Holiday family.

"The most important thing for Jrue to do right now is be with his wife and family," Gentry said in a statement. "Every one of our coaches and players understands what Lauren and Jrue are going through, and they know we're behind them 100 percent. We'll continue to do everything we can to support them and help them get through these hard times."

Some members of the U.S. national team said Lauren Holiday had written them about her condition and they were eager to support her.

"She's just a very resilient, strong person and she has strong faith, and that's helping her in keeping her strong during this time, because it is scary,'' said Becky Sauerbrunn, a former teammate on the U.S. national team and FC Kansas City. "If anyone could get through something like this, it is Lauren.''

Heather O'Reilly, another former teammate on the U.S. national team and FC Kansas City, said, "We're there for her. We're all behind her. That's kind of what times like these sort of show, is how close-knit this soccer community is.''

Jrue Holiday, 26, has dealt with a slew of injuries since joining the Pelicans before the 2013-14 season. He missed 90 games over the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons due to a stress fracture in his right leg suffered in January 2014. His 2015-16 season ended early due to an orbital wall fracture on his right eye suffered during a game. He expects to return this season in full health.

The Pelicans said they plan to send a trainer to North Carolina to help Jrue maintain his fitness and basketball skills during his absence.

Lauren Holiday, a midfielder, retired from soccer after winning the 2015 NWSL championship with FC Kansas City. She was the NWSL MVP in 2014.

The Holidays met as college athletes at UCLA in the 2008-09 school year and were married in July 2013.

Information from ESPN staff writer Justin Verrier and The Associated Press contributed to this report.