A Changed Home

Things seem a little different as Kyle returns to Toronto for training camp.

*Please note this story is entirely fictional, and is the fruit of the author’s imagination.

“Your wife and kids didn’t come with you?” the chauffeur assigned to him by the Raptors asked, as he helped Kyle put his luggage inside the SUV’s trunk.

“They flying in next week,” Lowry responded, jumping into the pre-heated front seat.

He was mostly day dreaming during the ride from Pearson Airport, reliving the heavy turbulence he experienced mid-flight. He pulled out his phone and logged into Instagram. Scrolling through, Lowry stumbled upon a clip from Serge’s ‘How Hungry Are You?’ featuring DeMar, and chuckled along. He decided to click on DeRozan’s profile, and scrolled on until he hit the reunion video with Rudy Gay in Texas. Kyle couldn’t smile through that one, and instead shoved the phone in his jacket pocket.

Lowry drove to the training facility early the following day, and made for the locker room after saying a brief hello to some of the staff. As a he drew closer, a strange occasional drumming sound seemed to echo loudly throughout the building. He paid no heed to it, and entered the empty room. His own locker remained exactly where and how he had left it, but the name on the one next to it had changed. He spent longer than he had intended just looking at it, his mind inevitably drawn to memories of silly car commercials and late night McDonald’s trips.

The loud drumming snapped him out of it, and he began changing.

“Lowranium, my friend, how are you?” a heavily-accented voice said happily, as the shirtless man with the pectorals of a Greek god came into the room.

“Fuzzy, what’s up, man?”

“Kyle, Kyle, listen, you see my show with DeMar? I got one with the Bench Mob boys coming out soon, but I have the best dish ready for you! You have to come on the show, Kylektic!”

“Man, I ain’t got time for that.” Lowry laughed it off.

“Come on, man. DeMar was on! You gotta get on!”

“Nah, bro. I ain’t trying to eat no hyena feet, you know?” Kyle said, an unimpressed grin on his face, as he finished tying his laces and made for the court.

The hallway was unnaturally dark and eerily quiet, with the exception of another round of drums that echoed through, even louder than before. It was only when he walked past the weight room that he finally found its source.

Three men huddled around the squat rack, where CJ Miles and Danny Green took turns telling what appeared to be well-rehearsed stand-up jokes, entertaining the third member of their little club, the man who replaced Kyle’s brother.

“Hahaaaaaha, hahahah!” the laugh boomed from the gym and shook the entire building, as CJ finished telling another joke.

Kyle considered stepping inside to say hello, but decided against it, choosing instead to put up some shots on the court further down the hall.

His shot felt good, as one swish followed another. He started right below the basket, and slowly extended his range to two feet beyond the three-point line.

Out of the corner of his eye, Kyle noticed his fellow short-statured point guard enter the gym, holding a large duffel back in each hand. “Freddy, my man.” The two embraced amiably, though the newcomer refused to put down his bags. “What’s in there?” Kyle asked, curious.

“My money.” Fred answered as though carrying bags of cash was as normal as wearing socks with sandals in Germany. “I have a ‘Bet on Yourself’ shoot later today, and the Brink’s truck crashed, so I had to bring the money myself.”

The gym filled in steadily, until they had eight guys warmed up and ready to go.

“Fred, CJ, Serge, you’re with me. Let’s go.” Kyle ordered, leaving Kawhi to play with Danny G, Delon and Norm.

Anger, sadness and frustration mixed within him, raising his blood pressure as his mind raced, and he was ready to take it out on the so-called new star in the T-Dot. Kyle took and made the long shot to earn first ball, and checked it to Delon to start them off.

He motioned for Ibaka to set a screen, getting the switch he wanted – he was now guarded by the former Finals MVP. Kyle pulled the hesitation dribble, before exploding past the long defender. He was free and clear for the layup, putting his body between the basket and Leonard, but it made no difference. Kawhi soared from behind to palm the ball into the backboard, and sent it to Norm for a reset outside the three-point line.

Kyle’s blood boiled as he shifted to a defensive stance. He caught up to Delon just as the youngster received Norm’s pass. Kawhi shook off Serge to receive a pass on the perimeter, but Lowry blocked it off. Seeing that, Delon put the ball on the floor and drove left, but Kyle recovered to body him up one dribble in.

Leonard to set a screen for Delon to go right, and Kyle yelled for the switch. He ended up with an arm on Kawhi’s back at the elbow, as Wright threw him the rock.

Klaw worked to back him down, but Kyle chested him, keeping low to the ground, not giving an inch. Leonard seemed taken aback by this, and went for the turnaround jumper, Lowry bothering him as much as he could. The shot bricked out, and Kyle called for the ball from CJ who grabbed the board.

A few plays later, Kawhi had switched onto him again, and Lowry was determined to make it count. Dribbling the ball with his left, he hesitated and drove again. Anticipating that, Kawhi moved his feet and stayed in front. In response, Kyle stepped back to his left suddenly, taking and draining the fading shot, and stared down the new star for effect.

Big Hands never skipped a beat though, blowing by Serge without any trouble on the next play. Kyle came to help and gambled with a swipe, just missing the ball. Leonard crossed over to his left, palmed it, and leapt for a thunderous one handed slam.

The scrimmage went on, getting more and more chippy throughout. One thing was clear though – Toronto’s newest star tandem could not help but respect each other’s compete level. Bruised and spent, they acknowledged each other with curt nods and a fist bump after Lowry’s team edged the game by a single point thanks to Freddy’s game winner.

The locker room was somewhat tense after they finished. Heading toward the showers, Kyle overheard Serge trying to sell Kawhi on appearing on his show. “Hahaaaa, hahahah!” the practice facility shook as the former Spur responded with a chuckle and a shake of the head.

First ring. Kyle lay sprawled on his white leather couch in his spacious home, blankly staring at the TV screen.

Second ring. He had eaten, done laundry, and FaceTimed with his family, trying to distract himself from the ever-present gloom.

Third ring. He could wait no longer, he had to hear his voice.

“Lil’ bro, what’s good?” there it was. He could hear DeMar smiling through the phone.

“Man, I’m older than you, lil’ bro,” Kyle said the last part sarcastically. “How you doing?”

“You know, it’s aight. Weather’s definitely better down here,” DeMar laughed. “Rudy’s been showing me around town. Coach Pop is a whole other world, man. Imagine our national team practices, and turn it up to a hundred all day, every day.” DeMar continued for a little while longer, and Kyle was content to just listen. He could feel everything within him settling down, a relative calm taking the place of the stress and anxiety.

“What about you, man?” Deebo asked.

“It’s just not the same without you, bro. It’s just a job again.”

“Come on, you still got JV, Freddy, and Delon.”

Kyle nodded but didn’t say anything.

“Give the new guys a chance. Remember how we were at first? Barely said anything to each other back then, and look at us now.”

“Yeh,” Kyle nodded again.

“How’s Kawhi anyway? He ain’t better than me, right?”

“Well, ya’ll both get your shots. But he plays defense too.” A sly smile crept upon Kyle’s face.

“Man, get on outta here,” DeMar protested. “Listen,” DeRozan continued, “when our contracts are up, we can team up again in some sunny place. Make sure you can still play though, aight? I don’t wanna see you using no old man stick either.”

The two kept talking long into the night, and for a short time, Kyle almost felt like he was home again – home as he remembered it.

If you enjoyed this one, you can find the other episodes in the Alternate Basketball Histories series here.