Richard "RJ" Jefferson drew a smiley face in his dream journal, just like the morning before. He leaped from the bed rolled up his Star Wars Episode One sheets, and ran to the bathroom mirror. His neck had no marks and it hadn't itched for weeks. RJ put his hand to his face where he had inexplicably grown an Anton LaVey goatee last month. "Never again!" RJ shouted to him self as he jumped in place for over five minutes. He did feel winded at all. Shyeah.
In which RJ feels a lot better, and Phil Jackson chews.
RJ rooted through the medicine cabinet and found the spirit band-aids Luke Walton had given him, silver and black ones. Luke told him that every team would have them next season. The Lakers owner would to introduce them to the league when the players and owners met to renegotiate the collective bargaining agreement. RJ did not know what that meant. He left the brain-thinking to Coach Pop. Pop asked to see the band-aids, and RJ would do just about anything for his team.
RJ could barely remember the month of February. Then Michael Finley brought him to Pop, Timmy and Manu. Finley and Pop did most of the talking. RJ understood none of it. After that Pop sat him on the bench next to Ginobili and things began to turn around. Just sitting next to Ginobili helped. It was like sitting next to a sunny day. But playing with him... unreal.
Tim would pick him up for every game and drive him home -- no more Cheesecake Factory late nights.
HONK HONK HONK.
RJ heard the rumble of Timmy's wood paneled Suburban. Tim talked the whole way to the "Alamodome" -- what Timmy still called the arena where the Spurs played. Timmy rarely talked, and RJ could make out none of it, Rush's 2112 blasted way too loud to hear anything. Was Tim the only NBA player who listened to Rush? Timmy seemed excited about a rematch with Orlando that night. RJ turned down the volume to make out Timmy's last word on the matter, "Manu is obviously unbelievable."
At the stoplight, Timmy fished around the floor for another tape. He popped in The Heptones. The singer warbled "Nobody can stop us now," and the black and silver yarn God's Eye hanging from the rear-view mirror fluttered to the bass.
* * * * *
Staples Center feigned innocence 5:30 am after the night-long practice. Ron Artest, Sasha Vulejic and Adam Morrison slept on the bench. The rest of the Lakers reposed in coffins stored in the dungeon below the lockerroom.
His Master used to give teams Good Friday nights off for celebrations of Death's ultimate triumph. Jackson chuckled remembering how Jordan and Pippen threw dice for rights to Magic's Number 32 jersey on one such evening over a decade ago.
But last night, the Master drove the Lakers team harder than ever. The next game against the Spurs was important to him. An afternoon game, he would not be there, but he expected his team to win.
A roach skedaddled from behind the towel sack. With a zenny economy of movement, Jackson pinned just one of the its leg with his oxford. He reached down and popped the roach into his mouth, live and skittering.
Chewing, Jackson noticed that every t.v. screen in the locker room melted. Ginobili scored 44 last night against a strong Orlando team, the Spurs demolished another title contender. His Master hated Ginobili. The Spurs were supposed to get weaker, but Manu seemed better than ever. Was Pop still drinking that wine?
Jackson fired a text to his assistant:
Schedule dinner with Popovich after game Sunday