- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

METAIRIE, La. (AP) - Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday has been feeling the best kind of pain this week - that general muscle soreness that comes from finally playing the sport he loves again.

Sharp-shooting forward Ryan Anderson will have that same feeling in a week or so, and he can’t wait.

“Next week I should be able to play with the guys,” said Anderson, who needed surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck. “I feel normal, I feel fine. I’m not really hesitant about it.”

It has been a long wait for the prominent pair of Pelicans to get back on the court in a 5-on-5, full-speed environment. Neither has played since last January. A frightening collision with Gerald Wallace in Boston left Anderson with a herniated disk in his neck. Holiday, meanwhile, was sidelined with a stress fracture in his right tibia.

Both Anderson and Holiday needed surgery. Both have undergone long rehabilitation, but both are in high spirits as they anticipate participating fully in training camp, which starts for New Orleans on Sept. 30.

“Getting out playing has been a joy,” Holiday said after a voluntary workout at Pelicans headquarters on Thursday.

Holiday, a former Eastern Conference All-Star who came to New Orleans in a trade before last season, averaged 14.3 points and 7.9 assists last season, but appeared in only 34 games. He didn’t play again after Jan. 8, and finally had surgery in late February.

The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Holiday started running again on an anti-gravity treadmill that was set so that the impact on his recovering leg was equivalent to only half his body weight. He gradually worked his way back to running on his full weight before expanding his workout to include agility drills.

Although he’s back to playing 5-on-5 scrimmages at voluntary workouts, he said he does not yet feel like his old self.

“That’s going to take some time,” Holiday said. “I’ve been running and jumping and stuff, but getting my rhythm back on the court is definitely a big thing right now for me.”

Lead assistant coach Randy Ayers is overseeing the club while head coach Monty Williams serves as an assistant on Team USA at the FIBA World Cup in Spain. Ayers said the team has been limiting the number of scrimmage games in which they let Holiday participate, but added that the guard looks like he’s in relatively good shape.

“He looks good,” Ayers said. “His body looks good. You can tell he’s conditioned a lot more this year because he’s been able to with his rehab.”

The 6-10 Anderson, who only started running in mid-summer, conducted much of his rehab in his hometown of Sacramento, where he even joined a 24-hour gym so he could burn off energy on a stationary bike at midnight, if he needed to.

After being forced to rest for rest for about half a year, Anderson sounded like someone who found even the most monotonous cardio workouts exciting.

“I was just tired of sitting around,” said Anderson, who averaged 19.9 points and 6.5 rebounds in 22 games. “Once I figured out I could work out again or at least start physical therapy and start with the bare minimum which was just doing a lot of core exercises and light cardio, it was exciting.”

Ayers said Anderson is so enthusiastic that team staff have to “hold him back, almost sometimes protect him from himself.”

Anderson will be re-evaluated next week to see if he can begin 5-on-5 play. In the meantime, he has progressed from spot-shooting to taking shots on the move.

“His shot has been consistent, especially the last week, and his conditioning is better,” Ayers said. “His change of direction has been good.”

Anderson said his absence from the game reminded him how much he really loved it while providing him time to reflect on his life and priorities.

“It was a really, really tough year last year. That injury really helped me put things in perspective,” Anderson said. “It helped me definitely regain that passion for the game. Like right now, I’m so excited to get back out on the court. I’m so excited just to be doing workouts. And most importantly, it was a time for me to reflect on myself and who I am and what I’ve been through.”

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