Story:Adge Martin's Vegas Vacation
Adge Martin's Vegas Vacation
Written by Mitch and Zenbas
Adge Martin’s Vegas Vacation
Friday, September 5th, 2020
By the time the final buzzer of the last rookie game sounded, Adge couldn’t wait to hit the showers. Back-to-back games, playing a full game’s run-time overall, was a beating. But when those games were the Top 24 Rookie games, and everyone was fighting to show what they could offer, the intensity was dialed up even further.
Perhaps too far.
Cohesion on the court had been nonexistent - for both teams. What little chemistry had formed during scrimmages and the combine in general vanished, and it was everyone for themselves on the court. Too many egos, too many concerns, too much trying to show off. It made for bad games, and Adge Martin’s team had lost both of them. Reflecting on his own performance, he wondered how much he had cost his team, himself.
Threes. He’d taken six three-point shots that night. None fell. Not a one. Why did he do it? Why did he just keep trying his worst shot, knowing full well he wasn’t great from beyond the arc? That was the question which ran through his mind, while the hot, intense spray of the showerhead ran through his fur. Deep down, he knew why; he wanted to be seen as a shooting guard, while he was being played out of position at small forward. He wanted to be taken seriously in the role he loved. Instead he’d made a fool of himself. A fool with a decent showing at defense, at least, and a few points on the board. From his number sixteen ranking at the combine, the hare only wondered how far down the order he had fallen after his performances that night, after his terrible leadership on the court.
He caught himself there, as he absent-mindedly worked fur and body wash over himself. A small forward wasn’t meant to be a leader on the court. They were a bridge between forward and back court. A healthy mix of offense and defense, one of the most flexible players on the roster. That’s what he had been in the Olympics, and what the FBA saw fit to play him as that night. As suds rinsed out from his fur, he knew he’d played that role as best he could, so perhaps things weren’t so bad. Only time would tell, and that time would come late the next day, when he would already be across the country in Las Vegas.
Like a whirlwind of chaos, everything had gone by so quickly. The combine felt like it was yesterday, yet a week had already passed. Even the Olympics were fresh in his mind, and his trip to Los Angeles - which kicked everything off - was so fresh he could almost taste it. Was this how life was going to be in the FBA? One massive rush, with days running into each other? As Adge toweled himself off, then stepped into the hot air booth for a good blast to dry the final dampness of his fur, he could think about little else.
That time around, the press had questions for him, and Adge didn’t shy away from his typical thick accent. Despite feeling he’d not shown himself well on the court, he still smiled and laughed, focusing on positives, as everyone had negatives that day. And, when it all wrapped, it was off to dinner, a few selfies with new friends, and back to his room to finish packing.
The sheer amount of stuff one could accumulate on the road is staggering. What had started as a suitcase and a gym bag, heading to the Olympics, had grown to two suitcases, gym bag, garment bag, and a new laptop bag, all of which were bulging at the seams. His Olympic uniforms, practice kit, Opening and Closing Ceremonies suits fought for space in his garment bag,while, and some other Team GB apparel filled one bag along with his new Rookie Games uniform, and some fresher practice kit. His other suitcase found itself crammed with normal clothes and toiletries, a dozen pairs of sole pads, and two basketballs: one signed by the entire Great Britain Olympic team, and one signed by all Top 24 rookies. It was a cumbersome collection, but one he’d rather have with him instead of shipping all back to England, only to have to turn around and ship it back to the States within a few weeks. Or week, as the draft was fast approaching.
And that was why he bedded down a bit early, that night, as he had a flight to catch to Las Vegas early the next morning. Yes, he was allowed another night’s stay in Plymouth, to see the final rankings, but those same results would be available online at the same time, so he was safe to get an early move on. That, and he was rapidly running out of things to do in Plymouth after having been there over a week so far, with no car. He was going to need to take driving lessons.
Saturday, September 6th, 2020
Everyone always said Las Vegas was hot in summer. Adge had prepared himself for a heatwave by dressing in shorts and a tee shirt for his flight over from Plymouth, only to find that highs were only around 80, and the lack of humidity made it actually feel cooler than Plymouth was. A check of his phone revealed that weather in London was even going to be warmer today, so he fired off a screenshot of his current temps to his flatmates, along with a shot of a replica of the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign which he found in the airport.
From there it was a shuttle ride to his motel to drop off his stuff. Nowhere near as luxurious as the hotel which the FBA had put the rookies up in, the place was two-star at best, but it was clean, had a bed, a bathroom, was cheap, and had a door which locked, so that was good enough for Adge. He just wouldn’t be sharing any photos of his room, or telling anyone where he was staying, of course. Being frugal was one thing, but letting others see that, when it was expected you’d be living large as a baller, was something else entirely. Without knowing the final rankings, Adge was loathe to spend any more money than he had to, and kept track of every penny spent on an app on his oPhone 6.
Living on a budget in Las Vegas seemed a difficult stretch, yet Adge knew that wherever there was the chance to lose money, there were places those losers could still take shelter, or eat, so he would be safe spending the week there, leading up to the draft. One necessary expense was a week’s gym membership to a decent gym, which he hit up shortly after arriving. Just because the combine was over, as were the rookie games, it didn’t mean he could go slack. On his own, the hare needed the work to keep his mind focused, and to keep himself occupied. Idle paws were the devil’s plaything, after all, and he was in Sin City.
Sin was kept at bay with a good workout, then a walk to a reasonably-priced casino buffet, where a great many crab legs were consumed.
It was on his way back to his motel room that his phone buzzed. An email had come in, and he shielded his screen from the sun in order to read it. Sender: Furry Basketball Association. Without hesitation, his thumb mashed the line to open the email, and he squinted before entering his motel where he could see the screen more clearly. This was it, the top 24 ranking. Adge could feel his heart pounding, his ears going hot as his body tried to radiate off the fresh heat of adrenalin as he half-walked, half read on his way to his room.
And then he fully tripped over his own footpaws, crashing onto the hard carpet floor of the hallway, his phone skittering out of his paws and sliding away from him. It was a mad scramble to right himself, and his brown eyes were wide as he fumbled his phone once, then twice, before grasping it properly and reading the screen once more.
The surprise had been real, real enough to catch him so off guard that he face-planted in a Las Vegas motel. He was ranked #3. Number three in the top 24. In the entire rookie pool! It was… that couldn’t be right, could it?
He checked it again. No, it wasn’t listed in alphabetical order, he was right there, in third place. How, he wasn’t sure. Stumbling into his room, he read it again. Third place, behind Zack and Berty.
In the back of his mind, someone’s words echoed, “They’re watching more than the combine events, it’s the scrimmages and interactions, too.”
That had to be it, Adge surmised. He’d done his best, smiled, laughed, and brought everything he had to everything in the combine, and it had to be a full package deal which earned him that spot. Immediately he called his parents to share the news.
In the week following Labor Day - apparently a big holiday in the United States - Adge found the streets simply packed whenever he left his hotel to walk to the gym he’d joined for the week. Tourists everywhere, snapping pictures of everything - but mostly of themselves. Occasionally looked at for his height, the hare still enjoyed an air of anonymity, and was able to blend in for the most part.
Attempts to find amusement had eaten his entertainment money allotment quickly in Las Vegas. Shows were expensive, buffets only had crab legs on weekends,, there weren’t any good films out, and he learned quickly that the $100 he’d planned to use on gambling at the casinos vanished faster than expected, with no big return. Las Vegas wasn’t like the movies, aside from the lights, and the only true high point during the week was a surprise invitation out to Sloanspeed, the performance driving complex owned and operated by FBA champion, Crosby Sutters. That visit went well, though Adge was left in awe of the genet’s massive car collection, and he came away from it with some good advice, but no measurable increase in his level of preparedness for what was to come.
Saturday, September 12th, 2020
As draft day approached, the league picked up the bill for a stay at the Dynn for all draft candidates starting on Friday night, and it had been a tremendous upgrade over the economy motel he had been staying at. That, and his old Elion and Olympic teammate, Arthur Selby, had come into town to hang out and support him through the draft. Still, despite the plush accommodations, and the show of friendship, the hare felt a pit of nervous fear in his heart, and it could only be quelled by a good workout.
Draft night, and he was going to the gym? Shouldn’t he be out revelling and seeing the sights? Or getting pampered at some salon, so he’d look good for the cameras that night? No, those cost money, and big money there in Vegas. The new suit he’d ordered was already an expense he didn’t enjoy, but it beat being seen in his Olympic suit yet again. As far as the press seemed to be concerned, he could show up in a bathrobe and it’d be received better than being seen in that suit for the fifth time. So, new suit it was, and it was supposed to be ready by lunch. Not exactly hungry, Adge decided to fix that with a heavy workout, still breathing hard by the time he returned to the hotel.
A text message stated that the suit was running a bit late, but should be ready at around two, now. Almost noon, already, Adge sighed and fired off a text of his own. This time to Arther, asking if he was up for lunch at the Dynn casino buffet. Not exactly the most secluded of venues, but it would at least afford Arther enough choice to fit his dietary restrictions, and there was the added benefit of being able to charge it to Adge’s room, which the FBA was paying for. Fifteen minutes later, the pair were sitting down at a table, each with a full tray.
“Ah dunno if’n Ah’m ready fer this,” Adge said, possibly meaning the pile of crab legs he’d selected, but more than likely referring to the draft.
“The draft, or the crab legs? Haven't seen you this daunted over a plate of food in a long time,” Arthur asked, taking a mouthful of greens as he commented.
“Har har,” Adge rolled his eyes. Cracking into the first shell, he shook his head. “Course Ah done meant ‘e draft. What if’n Ah goes first? Ah dunno if’n Ah’m ready fer ‘at koind o’ pressure.”
Between fork and crab cracker, the hare managed to free the steaming, succulent meat from his first crab leg, then sighed as he stared at it. “‘N what if’n Ah don’ go in ‘e first round at all?” he then added. “Ah mean, twere plen’y ‘o better players ‘an Ah in ‘e rankings at ‘e comboine.”
“Teams don't pick on combine results,” Ather chimed as he finished his mouthful. “If that was true, Van Zant would have been with Tennessee right now. They’re watching more than the combine events. Also, being picked 20th doesn't mean you are the 20th best player; teams have certain needs, and last time I checked, all of the lottery teams need a guard or a forward.”
Adge sectioned off another mouthful of crab, nodding as he listened. Of course Arther was right. He’d been through this firsthand, but it didn’t make things any less worrying for Adge. “Ah jes… Ah jes ‘ope Ah c’n go to a team where Ah’m properly useful. Reckon ‘at’s moy biggest fear.”
“I know that feeling, I was stuck on the bench for a decent chunk of last season,” Arthur replied.
“‘Ow’d yew get off it ‘n onto ‘e startin’ loineup?” Adge asked. “‘Twere summat Ah thought of, watchin’ yew last season, but… Ah didn’ reach out much b’cause Ah didn’ want t’ bother ‘ee. Yew bein’ ‘e pro, ‘n Ah still bein’ ‘e uni lad, ‘n ‘e loike.”
“And I just thought it was because my phone was hacked,” the rabbit chuckled. “Honestly, I kept my head down and got to work. Worked with the coach and took every opportunity I could get my paws on. When Royall put me on to start against Huntsville, I had to put personal feelings aside and get the job done.”
“Ah see,” the hare nodded. He pursed his lips, looking down at his tray, multiple trains of thought battling for the same track in his mind. “Yew know Ah’ll do ‘e same,” he then said, before looking back up. “But yew also know ‘ow it were b’tween me ‘n yew at Elion. Battlin’ fer ‘e same position. Yew know Ah don’ back down easy. But Ah also know ‘at uni is a damn soight diff’rent ‘n ‘e pros. Reckon ‘e attitude Ah ‘ad back then’ll get me in trouble, ‘ere?”
“I mean...maybe, I don't think I need to remind you about the twitter fiasco I had with Kiara. But I'm also not saying my way is the right way, there are some GMs that like that… gusto… as long as you are not affecting the team too much.”
“Ah don’ think Ah’d be takin’ t’ Tweeter loike yew did,” Adge said. “But Ah’d make moy ambitions known t’ moy coach, ‘n show it on ‘e court.”
Prodding his crab with his fork, the hare then pulled a cheek and sighed. “Been lookin’ at ‘e teams near ‘e top of ‘e draft. As much ‘s Ah’d love t’ go first or second for ‘e money, Ah know ‘at tent gon’ ‘appen. Then in ‘e lottery, think only Arizona done needs a shootin’ guard proper. Ah were thinkin’ Tallahassee’d be noice, but ‘ey jes’ picked up McQulikin ‘n Redfield, so tent no way Ah’ll be goin’ there, as they done jes’ filled moy positions wit’ proper stars, ‘ey did. If’n Ah ‘ad t’ guess, Ah moight be goin’ t’ ‘e Whips. Which… moight not be bad, really. Not much playoff chance, but Ah could stand out proper, Ah reckon. Any team wot needs a small fo’ard ‘ll go fer Berty over moyself. ‘At’s a no-brainer, there, as ‘e done whooped moy tail at ‘e comboine.”
“Ignore the combine, what did I just say?” trying to break Adge train of thought. “Look, I know I can talk, but overthinking will get you nowhere and you will miss things that are right in front of you, like the fact I stole the greens off your plate a few minutes ago”
“Wait, yew wot?” Adge blinked. Glancing down at his tray, sure enough, they were missing. “But… ‘ow’d yew do ‘at? Ah were roight ‘ere!”
“That’s one secret I've been sworn to keep.” Arther smirked as he carried on eating. “Don't worry, I’ll pay for the meal after that stunt, least I could do.”
A smile crept up Adge’s face, spreading his mutton-chop sideburns. “Aw, don’ ‘ee be frettin’ ‘bout ‘at. Tis a buffet, Ah c’n jes go ‘n get more,” he shrugged. “B’soides, League’s already payin’ fer moine, so no worries on ‘at. Yew comin’ t’ join me fer ‘e draft is plenty enough. Been proper lonesome this last week; good t’ ‘ave a friend ‘round.”
That comment seemed to spark another thought, one which made his smile fade. “Speakin’ of,” he continued. “Wot were it loike, movin’ ‘ere on yer own? Wot wit’ no fam’ly or friends ‘ere, already. ‘Ow long’d it take t’ get used to ‘at?” From past experience, Adge knew Arther to be quieter, and more reserved, so perhaps the sort of isolation hadn’t bothered him as much. But for so gregarious a hare as himself, it was a worry for Adge.
Arther drummed his paws against his lap as he dwelled the question. Adge watched as Arther’s professional answer, his honest answer, and the answer to calm his friend, were all fighting to come out at once. “...a while… I guess.. but then again… your team becomes a family in a weird way, besides you can easily call be now and not be like my prankster brother that calls me up at 3 AM”
“Aye, Ah’ll jes’ call ‘ee at half-two, ‘nstead,” Adge chuckled. The laugh died down quickly, though, as he continued to eat and talk. “Ah ain’t been ‘ome b’tween ‘e ‘Lympics ‘n now. Longest Ah ever done spent on my own. Ah mean, sure, we were roomies at ‘e Lympics, but yew know wot Ah’m gettin’ at. Goin’ from ‘avin’ a mate in the dorms, t’ ‘avin’ three flatmates in ‘e city, t’ suddenly on moy own? Ah didn’ ‘spect it’d be ‘at ‘ard, but… tis. Strewth.”
His crab legs nearly done, Adge moved on to other sections of his plate. “Ah floy back ‘ome on Monday. Be there fer a week, provoidin’ Ah gets drafted. Longer if’n Ah don’, natural. ‘N then it’s back to ‘e States, or Canada, dependin’, t’ meet moy new team. ‘Ere’s t’ ‘opin’ Ah gets along wit’ em.” “Be yourself and you will be fine. By that time you will have a lot on your plate...talking about plates, i'm gonna go up for seconds, you want to come?”
Adge was already starting to stand, in response. “Yew know it. Ah’m a growing lad, after all,” the hare laughed, patting his lean stomach. “And… yew do remember ‘ow well ‘being moyself’ worked wit’ yew when we done first met, roight?”
“Less reminiscing, more food grabbing,” Arther minded him. “It looks like they are bringing out more roasted peppers!” Leaving the hare in the dust, Arther weaved towards the buffet table.
“Aye, ‘n more roast beef,” Adge called back. Momentarily tempted to make it into something of a race, he then recalled his own size, and how accidentally body-checking someone seated for their own lunch might be a bad thing. So, restraint was shown there, but not when it came to loading his plate for seconds.
Lunch carried over into less serious talk, followed by a trip to the tailors to pick up Adge’s new suit. HoVo had a pre-draft party starting up, and that seemed as good a place as any to wear it to, while the clock ticked down to the start of the draft. Previously, Adge had told himself no alcohol before the draft, but the party was in swing, and there was an open bar, so… one gin and tonic wouldn’t hurt, right? And unlike other “just one drink” nights, the hare actually managed to keep himself to just the one, until his phone vibrated at him. It was time to go.
No need to take a cab anywhere, just an elevator down to the conference center at the Dynn, Adge felt his nerves climbing as the lift descended. Everything he’d done, every game he played, every practice he’d worked at, and every workout he’d endured, they had all led up to this moment, and it was a moment he could do no more work to better.
What was worse, was that he had to smile through his frustration about that. Smile, be cordial, and mug for the cameras as he knew there was nothing at all he could do at this point to affect the outcome of where he would be going. Well, at least nothing which would result in a positive outcome. So it was smiles, pawshakes, posing, light banter, and other crowd-pleasing tactics he’d learned at all too many Elion formal events. Other draft hopefuls were better at it than he was, walking in with swagger and style better suited to already-star players, while some carried a quiet strength and reserve. Adge just hoped his nerves weren’t showing, and was glad when it was finally time to be seated at his table.
As the lights dimmed, the hare immediately wished he’d had a second drink. His heart was racing within his broad chest, and it took a kick to his footpaw from Arther to stop his leg from bouncing beneath the table. This was it. This was real, and he was truly there. The FBA draft, where futures were unveiled, both good and bad. Fear of not being drafted was mostly gone, replaced with fear instead of falling to the second round, or going to a team where he would be superfluous.
The elephant droned on, boring the crowd, yet it was another endurance test which Elion professors had prepared him well for. If he could make it through lectures on medieval English literature, he could handle a boring speech by the commissioner. And, before his mind could start wandering too far, the speech concluded, having gone precisely nowhere, and the first pick was live.
Adge found himself leaning forward, staring at the screens beside the stage. The Texas Lone Stars were up, and deep down Adge prayed his name would be called. Texas was known for cowboys, which must mean they had farms, and that would be perfect for a farmboy like himself, right? But of course his name wouldn’t be called - not while Berty and Saphira were available, and sure enough, Berty went first.
He remained watching in eager anticipation as it moved to Edmonton’s turn. They could use a shooting guard, and he knew it. Maybe he’d wind up in the commonwealth? His mum would love that, at least. But no, it went to… Zack Cooper? Really? Not to discount the beaver - who had become a friend - the choice simply seemed odd.
With that, Adge leaned back once more. Tallahassee was on the board, and they certainly weren’t going to pick him - not after picking up D’Angelo McQuilkin and Dylan Redfield. What team would spend a lottery pick on a backup to two freshly-acquired superstars? Nah, he wasn’t going in this round, and likely not in the next, either, as Albany didn’t really need a shooting guard or small forward. Perhaps the analysts were right when they said he’d likely be going to Arizona.
So confident in not being picked, Adge turned to engage with Arther in some small talk, only to freeze, his ears cocking toward the stage, as his name was called.
“And for the third pick of the 2020 FBA draft, the Tallahassee Typhoons pick… Adge Martin!”
The sentence echoed in his brain as he slowly turned to see his picture on screen, as well as his name. They picked him? Really? Him? It took a nudge to his side from Arther’s elbow to snap him out of it, and he stood, looking dumb for a moment, before realizing that no matter what, he had just been picked to be part of the FBA! And a lottery pick, at that!
The spotlight found him on his way to the stage, where he met the team’s GM and coach, to receive his cap and pose for a few pictures. Nothing felt real, yet the smile on his face was undeniable. He had made it. He had truly made it! He was a real, honest-to-goodness professional basketball player, in the top league in the world!
That same smile lasted until he returned to his table, to congratulations and pawshakes along the way, until at last one question filled his mind: