A Nightmare on Yonge Street

7 mins read

*Please note this story is entirely fictional, and is the fruit of the author’s imagination. Previous instalments in the  Alternate Basketball Histories series: P.J. Tucker’s originsOG Anunoby’s origins, Jonas Valanciunas’ trials in Indiana, and Norman Powell’s instrumental contemplation.

–Sometime in mid-November, in a hotel room in Indiana–

Ryan Anderson stumbled out of the elevator, his arm heavy around Clint Capela’s shoulder, both men laughing loudly.

“6 in a row, man, we going for it!” Ryan bellowed before letting out a fierce belch. “Head home tomorrow, take care of Toronto, and we got it easy after that!” They sauntered towards their respective rooms, knocking into the hallway walls on more than one occasion.

“Shh!” an angry looking Nene, dreadlocks swaying freely from side to side, poked his head out of a nearby room.

“Shh!” Clint repeated mockingly as the two laughed on, finally reaching their destinations.

“Alright bro, I’ll see you tomorrow,” Ryan said as the two separated, retiring for the day. The stretch big found his basketball on his bed, and clutched it happily to his chest, collapsing onto the soft mattress. His body was exhausted from the physical contest, his mind intoxicated thanks to a few delicious mojitos, and sleep came easy that night.

The sun shined bright in the clear blue sky as Ryan made his way to the arena in his dream. Within, the crowd were already in their seats. They were full of energy and excitement, awaiting another Rockets demolition job.

A pick resulted in an apparent mismatch, and he began backing Kyle Lowry down in the post, though the smaller man refused to surrender an inch. A sudden aura of dread filled his heart, but he ignored it. Ryan had determined to pull off a turnaround jumper over the six-foot point guard when a sharp pain overtook his right arm. He shrieked, collapsing to his knees, as the ball was stolen, an easy fast break layup resulting at the other end. From across the floor, the cold, unchanged, remorseless eyes of his assailant met his own. His heart sank before he woke in a sweat.

Looking down at his palm, four long, bloody claw marks began there and ended near his elbow. His basketball was gone. A loud knock on his door made him jump. He hesitated momentarily, then made for the entrance. It was Clint, much to his relief.

“You alright, man? I heard a scream,” the worried Swiss asked, walking into the room and taking a seat on a cushy armchair.

“I’m… I just had a nightmare, a rough one,” Ryan responded, lifting his still-bleeding arm to the light.

Clint’s gaze sank. “It was Freddy, wasn’t it?”

“You’ve had it too?”

“Yeah, last time before we played the Raps. But people are saying he’s getting stronger, the nightmares worse.”

“Why… why is it happening?” Ryan questioned, his tone betraying fear.

“They say he went undrafted,” Clint whispered, looking around anxiously, “and that he’s out for revenge. Unending, unyielding revenge.”

“He was, he is,” a third voice chimed in through the open doorway, low and hoarse. It was P.J. Tucker. “I played with him to end last season. I Practiced with him, ate with him, shot dice with him. The man is relentless.”

An uncomfortable silence filled the room, finally broken by Ryan: “How do you stop the nightmares? How do you stop Freddy?”

“You don’t,” P.J. replied. “You either join his team, or you don’t sleep. Just be thankful we only play him twice a year.”

–Sometime in late January, in a hotel lobby in Toronto–

“Coach,” the Big Baller rookie sat on the sofa beside Luke Walton, “I think I’m gonna be ready to play tomorrow. The knee feels good.”

“Sounds great. Go get some rest then,” the Lakers head coach said encouragingly.

Nodding, Lonzo Ball made his way toward the elevator. As he arrived, he turned back to look at his coach. “He’s not looking, let’s go!” he motioned to the two players hiding around the corner in the adjacent space. Out came Kyle and Brandon, all three of them sneaking out of a back door silently.

“Welcome to Toronto, boys,” Brandon declared coolly, as they inhaled the frigid January air.

The clock showed 3am when Lonzo landed softly on the king-sized bed in his hotel room. In his dream, he saw himself orchestrating the offense against the Canadian home squad, setting his teammates up time and again while rightfully passing up open looks.

He was dribbling the ball up the floor, watching Kyle Lowry yelling out defensive instructions near the three-point line. As he neared half court, Lonzo’s gaze was drawn involuntarily to the scorer’s table, and there he saw them – eyes cold as ice staring directly into his. He fumbled the ball briefly, before recovering his composure.

Seeing Julius Randle making a cut to the basket, Lonzo shifted his gaze to the opposite corner, as his arm moved to make the no-look pass. But his teammate never got the ball. Instead, Ball was writhing on the ground, clutching his knee, as Freddy calmly knocked down a triple at the other end. He risked looking up, and saw those eyes look directly into his own. His body felt dangerously hot, fully drenched in sweat. Freddy was heading right back towards him, as the young Laker woke from the dream cursing loudly, the pain present even then.

The following day, the Los Angeles Lakers released a simple statement:

“Lonzo Ball (knee) out Sunday vs. Toronto.”