EL SEGUNDO- The Los Angeles D-Fenders outscored the Reno Bighorns on Thursday night, but none of them felt like they won. The team lost 22-year old video coordinator Adam Cave in a fatal motorcycle accident two nights before, a reality that was understandably at the front of their minds even as they tried to focus on a basketball game.
“It’s been an extremely difficult 48 hours for us, and credit to these guys for coming out and being professional and putting it to the side for 48 minutes and really focusing on working with each other, loving each other, playing with each other,” said D-Fenders head coach Coby Karl. “We’re going to miss Adam a lot.”
Karl’s words were echoed by his and the D-Fenders actions following the game. The already quiet Karl’s voice lowered to barely more than a whisper, while guard Vander Blue’s cracked several times as he tried to talk about Cave.
“We got him in our hearts, and in our prayers,” Blue said. “We’re just going to keep praying for his family, and just praying for our team. We just lost a family member, we lost a brother that meant so much to all of us. It’s going to make us stronger, and it’s going to give us a little bit more passion and power to play with.”
The team found their passion without getting to practice. Assistant coach Paul Woolpert did his best to make sure the coaching staff was as ready as they could be without the work of a video coordinator who Karl recalled with a laugh as being one of the most “effective and efficient” workers he’s dealt with in professional basketball.
“[Woolpert] was probably the one that kind of reminded our coaching staff that we had to lead here, and we had to be leaders,” Karl said. “It’s not something that you want to do, in terms of playing a basketball game after that happened.”
The D-Fenders did anyway, and they’ll continue to have to, which is exactly what they say Cave would want.
“We got to keep it rolling for him. It’s not about us. Every time we play now it’s for him,” Blue said. “Walking past his locker, I’m just thinking about life, man. Just learning lessons. Knowing that life is not guaranteed, basketball is not guaranteed, and nothing’s promised. A big lesson I’ve learned is to embrace every moment, appreciate everybody, and just try to love and be a good person.”
Karl was similarly reflective on what the loss of Cave had taught him, one that he tried to impart to his grieving team.
“The message that keeps coming to mind for me is let’s just enjoy this, because Adam enjoyed this so much. He loved this, and sometimes we lose sight of that when we’re not getting what we want, or we’re not winning, or we’re not playing as well as we want, but he loved what he was doing and even his parents said it was as happy as they’ve ever seen him,” Karl said.
“Just be thankful for what we have, and appreciate each other, and love each other,” Karl continued. “Just do it for each other because those relationships will be all we’re going to take away.”
The team placed a set of white roses where Blue would look to Cave, working on his laptop with a smile behind the team bench, a reminder of a brother lost too soon.
“I know me, I look at his chair where he usually sits during the game. I used to talk to Adam during the game,” Blue said. “He’s one of our brothers, he’s a family member, so obviously it was really hard for us, but we just had to dig down deep and know he’s in a better place, and obviously he’s watching over us and I know he’s more happy than anybody that we got this win.”
All quotes obtained firsthand. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.