Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images
A short, semi-fictional play about Orlando forward, Tobias Harris, who’s out indefinitely with an ankle injury.
- Bus driver
- Tobias Harris
A country road halfway between Jacksonville and Orlando abutting a bus stop late at night. Rony is lying on a concrete bench nursing a hangover. Stan is looking him over morosely.
Stan: (Shakes him.) Wake up. I need to rest my legs.
Rony: Wha—Who are you?
Rony: Any relation to Stan Van G—
Stan: Who? No. Can you please move over so I can sit down? The bus isn’t coming until 2 p.m. and I’ve been on my feet all day. (This was a lie.)
Rony: Right, sure. I’ve had a lot to drink, so please no more shaking.
(Stan sits down, and within five minutes, Rony is fast asleep on Stan’s shoulder. He tries to wiggle him off, but only succeeds in waking Rony up.)
Rony: What the hell is your problem, mister? I’m just trying to get some shut-eye.
Stan: I’ve got to pick up a very important person for work soon, and I can’t have your drool on my shirt. (He points to a splotch of dark brown on his collar.)
Rony: Oh sorry, I can’t breathe through my nose, so I drool a lot. Not as much as some of the Magic cheerleaders make me, though. (Laughs.) Know what I mean?
Stan: I do, but it’s uncouth.
Rony: What’s uncouth?
Rony: Do you like the Magic? (Glances at Stan’s clothes.) The Magic are a basketball team in Orlando.
Stan: I know. I work for them.
Rony: Oh WOW. Nice to meet you. (Grabs Stan’s hand and and shakes it aggressively.)
Stan: (Pointedly wipes hand on shirt sleeve.)
Rony: What do you do? (Assesses his outfit.) I’ll bet you’re in the marketing department, or you look after the books?
Stan: (Stan was an accountant, but he didn’t like the implication, so he lied.) No, I arrange travel for players and do the leg work when they need to be picked up or transported somewhere for a team event near Orlando.
Rony: So you’re a lackey?
Stan: No. (More angry.) It’s an important position. (… one where I am compensated handsomely and which affords me a certain amount of respect within the organization and from the public at large, he didn’t add, but wanted to.)
Rony: Awesome man. (Attempts to slap five with Stan and is met with a blank stare.) Do you know Tobias Harris? Where has he been?
Stan: (Chuckles to himself.) I’m actually waiting for the bus to go see him. (This was true, but Stan normally didn’t participate in these little rendezvous and only agreed when no one else could be found. He was actually very nervous about meeting Mr. Harris.)
Stan: I’m meeting with him to see about his ankle. He’s visiting a specialist in Jacksonville, and I’m going to escort him back.
Rony: Why don’t you just drive there? You can probably afford it.
Stan: My car broke d—
Rony: Wait, did you say an ankle specialist?!
Stan: (Confused.) Yes, so?
Rony: Is there something wrong?
Stan: No, um, what do you mean?
Rony: I’ve been waiting for Tobias Harris all my life. He’s going to lead the Magic back to the big time.
Rony: You don’t think he’s legit? (Rony was beginning to think Stan was a fraud, but he didn’t say so, since he himself felt like a fraud a lot of the time.) He’s got everything, length, he’s athletic, and he can shoot — or at least I think he can shoot. Not much sample size, you know?
Stan: I guess not. (He guessed.)
Rony: A half-season ain’t much to go on, you know? His Synergy numbers are OK, I guess, but I’d like to see him improve his shooting. He sometimes makes me think of J.R. Smith.
Stan: I guess so. (He guessed.)
Rony: I’m not really a big fan of his defense. He can ball watch and when he hedges into the lane, he can rush out slow if the ball skips a guy on the perimeter.
Stan: I’m busy—
Rony: But ….
Stan: Rony. I’d like to go over my papers.
Rony: What for?
Stan: It’s important.
Rony: Why is it important? When you get down to it, we’re all gonna die. Looking at your papers is a bit meaningless and absurd, amirite?
Stan: Now I’m worried you’re a drug addict.
Rony: Whatever Stan. I’m just trying to talk basketball — your business by the way — and I bring up Tobias Harris, all 6-foot-8 of him with those long arms and that smooth jumper, even if he only shot 31 percent from deep last season, because we’re stuck here.
Stan: ENOUGH! I don’t know anything about basketball, I was just loathe to admit that to you, and—
Rony: WHOA! Stan, I don’t get all the fancy dialogue. Loath? I know Zach Lowe, but not loathe. How do you not know about basketball? Aren’t you waiting for Tobias Harris here?
Stan: I am, I suppose, but I don’t even know what he looks like. According to you, he’s more than 10 feet tall and shoots lightening bolts from his fingertips if a defender impedes his progress to the rim.
Rony: Not quite. He is big, though. At 6-foot-8, he can see over the defense pretty well, and he’s got quality handle for a guy that size. Maybe not LeBron-esque, but enough to get to the bucket past the vast majority of power forwards.
Stan: I know LeBron, the rest of that was nonsense.
Rony: This is a nonsensical world, my friend.
Stan: We’re not friends, more like mismatched acquaintances shipwrecked on the shores of happenstance. But what is Synergy, and why do the numbers associated with it deem Tobias as just OK?
Rony: I like where you’re headed, and it’s really the dischord that drives a lot of NBA analysis these days. Do you go with your gut or empirical data driven by numbers? Do you rely on subjective impressions after watching games or objective graphs that trace progress and the game’s fluctuations sans ambiguity?
Stan: Can you give me an example that won’t make my head hurt as much as your whiskey-addled brain?
Rony: That reminds me, where is my hat?
A newsie cap sits in the dirt a couple meters behind the concrete bench where both men are now sitting. It’s filled with a smart phone and a bottle of indeterminate whiskey one-third of the way filled.
Stan: There’s one right there, but it’s encased in dirt.
Rony: MY PHONE!!! Now I can show you what the NBA is all about.
Stan: Who says “all about” these days? Isn’t that just a subjective reference on whatever you have aligned with humanity’s brief time on this mortal coil?
Rony: I think basketball is part and parcel all about life, music, books, songs, and the rest of that claptrap.
Stan: You sound like a mediocre middle school poet.
Rony: Some would say the same of back-up point guard E’Twaun Moore’s jumper.
Stan: But what good is any of this if we don’t ever see Tobias? I’ve got half a mind to trudge back to the nearest gas station to figure out what’s going on. He should be here by now.
Rony: There’s never enough time in the world. Some Magic fans have gone through an entire generation with barely a whiff of the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Stan: Who is Larry O’Brien?
Rony: It’s not important, and you wouldn’t understand if I told you. In fact, most NBA fans — without the ability to Google — would have no idea who Lawrence O’Brien is. Wait, how do you spell that? (Walks over, picks up the phone and it’s dead.)
Stan: (After seeing the phone, and interjecting before Rony can tell him.) Death isn’t something to expound on past the simple explanation that the 20 or so grams that comprises your spirit is now an undulating energy force ricocheting across the galaxies. In Dante’s epic ecclesiastical terms, it’s purgatorio, but I like to think it’s one long water bed ride where everybody has a goofy expression of bliss and anxiety intermingled on their faces.
Rony: Didn’t you accuse me of being on drugs earlier? Also, that last part sounds like every Jordan Crawford and Nick Young play where they don’t get to shoot.
Stan: (Waves the latter comment away to answer the former.) I did, but we’re all drunk off the elixir of life. Some just blow a lower BAC.
Rony: I’ll say. (Sips from nip stashed in his jacket.)
Fade to black as Rony and Stan both fall asleep on each other’s shoulders.