Popovich set up a makeshift film room in the Terminal 1 Admiral's lounge.
Manu addressed his team. “Road trips keep the team together, and we need it, because we need to get to know the new guys better,”
Pop nodded. Manu is all business -- the last year of the contract. The last year of the project he and RC Buford concocted in 2005 when they resigned Manu. Manu was the focal point, an Argentine, as prophesied.
“So we're going to have some meals, talk and get to know one another better. It's going to be important.” Manu droned in his broken but deliberate English.
RJ squelched a sigh. Duncan listened, so RJ listened. He tried to listen. . .but his stomach rumbled. All he could think about is the Wasabi Crusted Ahi Tuna at the Cheesecake Factory. That's what he ate that night. Why did he keep dreaming about that night? Dreams of black shadows cast on black voids. No words, only choked thoughts. RJ shivered, then yawned.
“It's a lot more conducive to that, because we only have ourselves to deal with,” Popovich bellowed A wadded up piece of paper bounced off RJ's head.
“There are no family or friends around. We're stuck with each other."
Pop got that right, RJ thought as he looked across the room to see Mace and Bonner snickering. They've been through this before. Who are they? RJ thought of Ime, Rasho, Beno, Nazr, Hedo, Speedy -- players whose best days were with the Spurs. He had asked Steve Kerr about it, golfing back in Arizona. Steve silenced him to sink a forty-five foot putt for an Albatross. Then Steve wouldn't shut up about geometries under-girding subatomic reality. WTF.
Another wadded up piece of paper bounced off RJ's head. The team laughed more when RJ looked back at Mace. Pop had a third wad in his hand, ready to throw. Pop looked straight at RJ. "Since we're so unfamiliar with each other, this would be a good way to learn a bit more.”
“Hopefully, I can keep building from here,” Manu concluded.
The moment stretched. The team's laughter suddenly seemed like years ago.
The Cheesecake Factory was hopping, even hours after midnight. Everywhere Luke Walton looked he saw people sporting purple "spirit" bandages like ones the team wore.
Luke Walton glanced across the table: Sasha Vujacic, Ron Artest and Adam Morrison. Not all his team-mates were like Derek, yet.
Sasha acted like the others, but he wasn't like the others -- he figured a way to cut out of the night practices. Coach Jackson and the Master do not seem to notice. Weird. He wore the bandage on the wrist, but Luke noticed in the shower that nothing bled beneath it.
Ron never acted like anybody else, ever. Ron showed up in a three piece suit and brought his own silverware. Adam excused himself and walked back to the kitchen. Luke saw a line of high fives strobe from behind the swinging door. Adam's hanging out with the cooks, again. Luke looked at his watch, 4:20 am. Dang, when was he ever going to get his Cheesecake Factory Old Fashioned Hamburger.
Derek -- Fish, what every one calls him -- he's a company man. Jackson trusts him. Luke noticed that Fish's CF Filet Mignon wasn't rare -- it was raw. And he drank a lot of those deep red Mosquito Bite specialty cocktails. Luke stared down at the bandage on his own wrist. How much longer until he was like Derek?
Pretty waitress, was she wearing the spirit bandage on her neck? No matter, food finally! Luke unconsciously drooled as he dumped the thick, crimison ketchup on his generously portioned Cheesecake Factory french fries.
* * * *
Michael Finley looked two seats over at George and DeJuan trading levels of Galaga on their iPhones.
Michael turned to the window and the clouds. When did people start saying "high level" to denote hierarchies of experience? Is video game play is affecting the language we speak and the way we describe empirical reality. What was that video piece Steve Nash showed him that one time, Cory Archangel. Only the clouds.
Finley unconsciously planted his feet on the floor of the plane as if spotting up for a corner three.
He felt the current of Among Us on his core Dasein. Heidegger -- he dabbled with Nash and Dirk back in the D. He was ready to deepen his studies, the opportunity to study with Popovich, and play with Timmy. How could he turn it down. The ring was a nice bonus. But the process -- playing the right way -- was its own reward.
How was Dirk. Playing baaaaaaddddddd ball right now, but other than that? His new coach couldn't be more off than AJ. Rick Carlyle -- heard the dude loves ping-pong.
AJ studied with Pop, but left too soon. He gave into his emotion too easily. He did not see that passion was the sharpest knife, one that must be handled but handled with care and intention. AJ ... hopefully David can help him. The Spurs take care of their own, Finley thought of the number 6 hanging in the rafters. An honor or a warning to others?
00 6 13 32 41 50 -- you will add 20 and 21 to that, maybe 12, too. 2012 21... Were these numbers or signs?
Finely overhead a round of French swears -- Tony and Ian discussing fantasy basketball. Tony loyally stuck with Manu as his starting big guard, but Ian had Kobe. And Kobe made another last second shot -- this one over the Bucks in Milwakee.
The Lakers, playing baaaaaadddddd ball, too. Jackson's the other great coach, but another, darker tradition. Inverted Spirit Geometrics -- or something. Does left become right behind your back? Finley chuckled to himself. Not his thing at all.
Finely felt his stomack rumble. The Incredible Grilled Eggplant Sandwich at the Cheesecake Factory was another matter all together. Good food.