Story:Talent Versus Numbers
Talent Versus Numbers
Written by Shataivian with Lizzimba
Friday, December 14th. Las Vegas, Nevada. Las Vegas vs. Pittsburgh. The score at the end of the night: Las Vegas Wildcards 116, Pittsburgh Keystones 109.
The game was over, and everyone was leaving the stadium. The Wildcards all began going in their own directions towards the showers. Theo held his head low, shaking it while he laughed to himself. “What a shit show,” he whispered to himself. He had scored six less points than his teammate Moby, even though he spent more time on the court than him. Behind Theo, Lisa tried to catch up with him.
“Theo, wait,” Lisa called after him. “Wait. I wanna talk. Please?” Theo laughed as she caught up to him.
“Well, we won,” he sarcastically shouted.
“Theo, please?” Previous to that night, Dimi Kabat had gathered the Wildcards together on the court for a team meeting. He called forward Lisa, Misha, Fenruss, Wayne, and Theo, all the starters at the time, and had them stand on one side of a line.
“You see these five guys,” he had asked the rest of the team that night. “These players have performed fantastically, consistently.” He then turned to the starters and thanked them as the five awkwardly shuffled, unable to really take the compliment. The squirrel had then raised his voice enough to feel alien to everyone. “I wouldn’t trade them for almost anyone in the league! I’m done pretending they are part of the problem. The problem is all of you,” he declared to the remaining members of the Wildcards. “You fail to bring your ‘A’ game. You ignore my instructions.” He had continued to call out players saying things like, “You are letting these guys down,” and “[The five starters] deserve to be great.” And by the end of the night he had placed Keo and Moby on the bench, both previous reserve players. However, the game immediately after the meeting, one of Dimi’s pets, Theo, pulled 0-7 earning him a spot on the bench, with Moby now replacing him as a starter. But this was short-lived as tonight’s game against Pittsburgh, Moby was benched with Fenruss replacing him, and Lucian playing the now open Center spot.
Lisa placed her hand on Theo to try and get him to stop. “I’m showering off. I’ll see you later,” Theo said, ignoring her advance.
“We haven’t talked in a while, Theo… I know you’re still upset about what happened, and that you’re not happy with tonight,” Lisa revealed.
“Oh Yeah,” Theo finally stopped to face Lisa. “Are you at all surprised? Dimi goes and calls us out, you, me, Mish, like we’re the ‘stars.’ Then I get benched ‘cause of one bad game. I was player of the game before that for God’s sake.” Theo continued walking towards the locker rooms.
“Listen, I’m scared too. I only got us six points tonight... I keep…” Theo stopped again to face Lisa.
“You really think you’re in trouble,” he asked her.
“With how things are going… I just… I need to get more points for us…”
“Yeah, but you’re Point. Assists are important, too.”
“I just… I can’t tell with this team.” Lisa was hugging her arms in close. “Is… Is it like this on other teams?”
“Oh sure…” Theo then stopped to rethink his answer when he noticed Lisa was collapsing over herself. “But Dimi. He’s got some issues going on.”
“I’m sure he’s just got some bigwig breathing down his neck,” she tried to defend.
“Yeah well, he better start working with us instead of pitting us against each other.”
“I know! I’m having a hard time getting on everyone’s good side.”
“Word of advice, lis: don’t. You can’t get on everyone’s good side. It’s best to make sure that you’re doing your best and stop worrying about being buddy-buddy with everyone.”
“But… we’re a team.”
“In the FBA that’s only a small part. Here, we’re numbers. Just make sure your numbers are high.” Theo opened the door to the locker room looking to end their conversation.
“Theo. You know why I chose basketball over, say, something like fencing? It was the team aspect. I loved being able to add my talents to other’s. There are things you’re good at and things Mish is good at, and so on. And there are things I’m good at. When that all gets thrown in together, I donno… It makes for a very interesting, exciting, and creative game of chess.”
“You’re such a rookie, Lisa,” he said with his back towards Lisa.
“Is that wrong?”
“No.” Theo turned around once again. “At least it shouldn’t be. But tell me something. Do you ever notice anyone talking about the ‘team?’ Like on tweeter or after games? Is it ever ‘we’ did great? Or is it ‘I’ did great, or ‘I’ did awful? Basketball is a single’s sport where everyone is looking after their selves.”
“I don’t want to believe that, though.”
“Listen, the sooner you learn the Game within the game, the better. The FBA is a franchise, a business. It exists to make money. And if you’re not getting the results you’ll be replaced. I just didn’t think it would be so cut and dry with Dimi,” Theo whispered that last part to himself.
“But… how am I supposed to lead a team if everyone is doing their own thing?”
“That’s the question, isn’t it,” Theo laughed. “I mean didn’t Dimi prove this to you? He separated us. Told us who his favorites were and who he was placing blame on. And after the first sign of a problem he goes and changes his mind. The ‘team’ doesn’t matter.”
“That’s ridiculous. I mean that’s why I tried to meet with everyone at the beginning of the season. I wanted to get to know people so that we can work better on the court as a freakin’ team! I refuse to believe that it was a waste.”
“Well, I wouldn’t say it was a waste, just that, for the Las Vegas Wildcards, your strategy isn’t going to work out the way that you hoped.”
“So… what do I do?”
“Hell, if I know. Just keep your numbers up. Right now, we aren’t the bottom, right?”
“Right now, Pittsburgh, Arizona, and Texas are… We just edged out with tonight’s win.”
“Then that will help.”
“Theo… I… I need help…”
“The points! I want to get us more points. Like… I see other Point Guards with like 20, 30 points and I… I mean, Like I said, I got six tonight.”
“Lis. Okay. You listen here. You’re small.”
“No, listen. You need to play your height and speed.”
“I know,” Lisa scoffed.
“No, you don’t. You asked me for help, right?”
“Yeah, ok sorry.” Theo went across the arena over to the rack and grabbed a ball.
“Come here,” he said holding the ball with both paws. “Try to get the ball from me.” Lisa looked Theo up and down.
“Just any way you can.” Theo stood straight on in front of Lisa.
“Ok.” Lisa swatted at the ball and Theo used his height to keep the ball just out of reach. Frustrated and determined to win this little game as quickly as she could, Lisa jumped up to swat the ball, surprising Theo in the process. She would have reached it had he not pivoted to get the ball out of her trajectory.
“Come on,” Theo taunted. Lisa grunted. Theo then hunched low with the ball held back behind him. Lisa pressed against his shoulder with hers, trying to use her weight to push past his defense. Unfazed, Theo shifted his hip against Lisa’s, knocking her to the ground. “You’re not doing very good.”
“You’re tall and big,” Lisa huffed.
“So, what?! So is everyone else you are up against!” Lisa pushed herself up off the ground. “Get the damn ball, lis.” Lisa got light on her feet and stayed low. Theo mirrored her as best he could with his bulk and height. When Lisa reached her right hand out towards the ball, Theo crossed it over from behind to get it out of her way with his left paw. But Lisa did not follow through with her reach, and instead swept her hand down low to meet the ball from between Theo’s legs, catching it before Theo’s right paw could. “There you go!”
“I didn’t learn anything! I just got frustrated.” Lisa tossed the ball back to Theo.
“Good. Now do it again.”
“Theo, I feel like this is just-“
“Do it again.” Theo dribbled the ball, keeping Lisa away with his off-paw. He faked a jab and Lisa reacted by trying to catch the ball. With Lisa caught off guard Theo pushed to get the ball in the net. He moved passed her, stepping his right foot in front of Lisa to keep himself in front of her. However, instead of letting this movement manipulate her own, she stepped opposite of him, moving to his left side where he was dribbling the ball. Once the ball hit the floor, Lisa reach lower than Theo could and got the ball in her possession.
“Ah! See,” Theo praised Lisa. “You’ve got your height and speed to do the things I know how to do but can’t do since I’m bigger. Now. Watch my cross over.” He crossed the ball over from back to front. “You see that? Watch again.” He crossed the ball over again allowing Lisa to catch the pattern. “You see?”
“Yeah... yeah! Ok I see.” Lisa got ready.
“Good! Now let’s go.” Theo quickly moved passed Lisa in the same way he did before, but when Lisa tried to step left, Theo spun around her and shot the ball into the net. “What happened?! Get the ball, lis. That’s your job!” Lisa growled in frustration. With the ball back in Theo’s paws, Theo went to shoot the ball but missed with Lisa blocking his way. He grabbed the ball to rebound but Lisa swatted the ball from his paws. “Good!”
“I can’t do that,” Lisa shouted through huffs.
“The hell you can’t! It’s totally legal after a rebound,” Theo informed her.
“It is?” Lisa chucked the ball back at Theo.
“Come on, lis. Now rush me.” Theo dribbled the ball again, and Lisa immediately rushed after the ball. Theo dodged. “Nope. Try again.” Lisa jabbed forward then rushed after the ball, this time getting it in her possession. “Good,” Theo laughed. “Hey. Nice fake. You’ve got such a genuine face,” He continued to laugh.
“I mean you’re too… ‘nice,’” Theo teased.
“No, I’m not.”
“Come on. I’m gonna dribble the ball and try to guess what your thinking.” Theo stood in front of Lisa dribbling the ball and watching her face. Her eyes shifted to the left. “Flank left,” he called out.
“Dammit…” Lisa’s eyes moved from the ball to his right shoulder.
“Fake right,” Theo recognized.
“Stop thinking so much.”
“Come on. Why’d you choose basketball if all you want to do is ‘think’ things through? Why not just go play chess?”
“Stop it!” Lisa rushed the ball and Theo moved passed her.
“Where’s your passion?”
“I have passion!”
“Then show me. Where’s your drive, where’s your joy?” Theo ran for the net and Lisa jumped up, not after the ball, but directly at Theo, colliding with him in the air. They both fell to the ground and sat there for a moment. “That’s it,” Theo cackled. “Great. Again!” Lisa just laughed instead.
“Okay… okay… I see what you’re saying. I really am over thinking things.” Lisa stood up and helped Theo up.
“It’s obviously gonna take time and practice. But it’s like you said, you’ve got your own talents that are going to help the team. Stop trying to play like every other Point Guard. Play the way only you can.”
“Yeah… yeah. You’re right.” Lisa was smiling now, and so was Theo.
“Cuz you’ve got skill. Stop forgetting that.”
“What about you?”
“Me? Ha… Yeah. Well, now it’s up to Dimi to see that. He can only shuffle us around so many times before he runs out of player combinations.”
“Yeah… just don’t go and get yourself traded.”
“Yeah… Fine. I’d hate for you to use what I taught you against me,” Theo joked. “We should shower off. I’m sure we smell amazing right now.”
“Yeah. I wreak,” Lisa chuckled.
“You… wanna come over and play some music?” The two had learned earlier in the season that they were both interested in music and have been practicing together every so often, with Lisa learning to sing, and Theo practicing with his cello.
“Yeah I’d love that,” Lisa responded.
“I’ve got a new song we can try. Might as well give it a try while we still can…”
“Sounds fun. I’ll meet you in a bit, then.”
“Hey, Theo? Thanks.”
“You know… Yeah. You, too.” Theo smiled and the two went in opposite directions into their respective showers.