-- CLEVELAND -- In the brief moments after the Cavaliers and Pelicans took the floor Monday night and before their game tipped off, LeBron James approached Jrue Holiday to offer him words of encouragement and tap him on the chest, acknowledging the point guard's off-court struggles.
Holiday's wife, former U.S. women's national soccer team player Lauren Holiday, underwent brain surgery in October to have a benign tumor removed. Just weeks prior to the procedure, she gave birth to the couple's first child, Jrue Tyler Holiday, a daughter. Jrue Holiday took a leave of absence from the Pelicans to be with his family at the time.
"When we heard about it, me and my family and my wife heard about it, we were in L.A. at the time in the offseason and we automatically had a prayer for her," James told ESPN of Holiday's situation. "This is a brotherhood, no matter if you're on the same team or not, this is a fraternity. Our league is a fraternity. Any time someone's family is going through a situation like that, you just hope the greater God above is looking out for him. So, I couldn't wait to actually see him today."
Holiday went on to have 11 points, four rebounds, three steals and a game-high 13 assists, nearly matching the Cavs' team total of 16 assists on his own.
"Obviously to him, family means more than anything," Holiday told ESPN. "And the same thing for me. So, the fact that they've been praying and supporting my wife is a blessing to me.
"To know that this league and somebody of his caliber and the effect that he has on the game like he does can really have support for my family is awesome."
Holiday missed the Pelicans' first 12 games of the season to be with his family, and the team went 2-10 in his absence. Since his return, New Orleans has gone 12-12, including Monday's loss, to climb back into the Western Conference playoff picture.
He said greetings like he got from James have become commonplace.
"I've gotten it probably every game -- whether it's from referees or from players, I've gotten it every game," Holiday said. "I guess for our league to acknowledge that and for it to feel like a brotherhood, that's really what it feels like."
James said it was important to put the competition aside momentarily to show Holiday he cared.
"Once the ball is tipped, you're going to go out and compete and try to help our teams win, but listen, at the end of the day, family comes before anything," James said. "And to know what he was going through with his wife and having to have a leave of absence because of that, that's bigger than anything. So, it was a no-brainer."
Now back with the Pelicans for nearly six weeks, Holiday said it's not just New Orleans' on-court product that is improving.
"I guess it's been going well and it hasn't been affecting me, I don't think," said Holiday, who went into Monday averaging 14.6 points, 7.0 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. "My wife is doing really well and she's gradually getting better, and that's all I can ask for. She's alive, and I'm blessed for that. My daughter is OK. So, I'm happy.
"I'm doing well. My wife is a lot better so I'm doing a lot better."