TORONTO – Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca admitted he had a hard time focusing on basketball Friday night.
The Saint-Etienne, France, native was worried about the safety of his family in Paris, where terrorist attacks killed at least 129 people. He didn't get confirmation they were all safe until after New Orleans' 100-81 loss at Toronto, and he was especially concerned for a cousin who was at the soccer friendly rocked by the sound of nearby explosions.
"It's just a crazy world. You think you're safe, you're just walking down the street and the next thing you know, people start shooting," Ajinca said. "My prayers go to my family and friends."
Ajinca wrote "Pray for Paris" on his sneakers and asked his Twitter followers to "Pray for my family and friends" prior to the game.
"During the whole game I was trying to get this out of my mind so I was able to stay focused," Ajinca said.
"It felt weird. I was thinking about it the whole game."
Less than 24 hours after the attacks, the wounds still hurt.
After Pacers center Ian Mahinmi used Twitter to express his condolences Friday night, he issued a long statement Saturday thanking friends and fans for their support.
But the Rouen, France, native who played on the 2014 national team and sometimes writes tweets in French, was still shocked by what happened in his home country.
He acknowledged that Friday night's game against the Timberwolves was tough to get through.
Mahinmi wasn't the only NBA player with French ties who struggled with his emotions.
In Chicago, the Hornets' Nicolas Batum and Bulls' Joakim Noah shared a moment prior to their game. Batum is from Lisieux, France, and played for the French national team at the 2012 Olympics. Noah's father is French former tennis player Yannick Noah. The pair asked about each other's families prior to tipoff, and both had good news to report.
"Still a tough day for us," Batum said after Chicago's 102-97 win. "I think about it all game. I wanted to do a good game to show them in my way, we're strong."
Noah lived in Paris from 1988 to 1998, and his dad won the French Open at Paris' Roland Garros in 1983. Noah called family before the game to confirm everyone was all right.
"I'm not sure [what happened]," he said. "I just know it's very, very sad what's going on in Paris. A lot of people died for no reason."