Richard Jefferson felt anxious about spending the night at The Skirvin Hilton, an Oklahoma City hotel rumored to be haunted. Manu mocked him as the team filtered into the pre-dawn team meeting. “I slept like a baby.”
The executive suite was darker than the starless Oklahoma night. RJ waited for his eyes to adjust, but even after several minutes he could make nothing out. Fumbling for a folding chair, RJ stepped on someone's foot. "Mon oeuil!' Tony shouted in obvious pain.
RJ planted his butt down just in time to hear Popovich's gruff, “Thank you." A scratch of tender illuminated drawn puse curtains. Pop lit a Santeria candle adorned with an image of John the Conqueror palming an orange stone.
"Thank you." Pop lit the second candle, a bearded Posidon holding a severed net.
"Thank you to the basketball gods for allowing us to win.” Popovich carefully lit the final candle adorned with the image of five nested pentagrams. He shook out the smoldering match and nodded for assistant coach Hank Egan to draw from the deck of what looked like hand-painted cards.
RJ snuck periferal glances. Roger, Tony, George Hill and DeJuan Blair were transfixed. To his right sat Tim Duncan's peternatural calm, RJ shoulder's relaxed but only a bit.
Hank drew a card and held it for the team to see: the Magician. Pop smiled, looking at Ginobili.
Hank handed the card to Pop, who placed it in the first candle. The room was silent but for the crackle of the burning card and the hum of the climate control. When only ash remained in the candle, Pop blew it out. He carefully filtered the cinders into an envelope and handed it to Hank who promptly sealed it with red wax.
Hank drew a second card, "Three of pentacles -- teamwork, competence, skill, dedication, discipline, progress -- Reversed." RJ noticed Tim wince.
Again, the card was burned and the ashes saved.
Hank drew the last card: the Sun -- Reversed.
As Pop reached to take the card it burst into blue flames. Hank dropped the burning card, "So cold!"
The card shattered on the floor like a thin sheet of ice.
The team meeting adjourned.