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by Bryan Harvey

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by Bryan Harvey

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Central Division Profiles: Danny Granger, the Hustler

October 15, 2010

Russ previewed the Central Division earlier, which was followed by a profile piece on Joakim Noah.  Now we've got the story of Danny Granger, who will either prove to be a franchise player or a fraud as the Indiana Pacers continue their search for respectability:

Danny always swore he could hear God whisper to him through the wood of a pool cue, or maybe it was money, or maybe the feeling of fresh bills in one's pocket is the same as being touched with the spirit, speaking in tongues and a choir full of angels.  Whatever it was, Danny liked it, felt in tune with it, and went from pool hall to pool hall in search of it, cocky as all get out.

And today was no different.

Danny strutted into Larry's Pool Hall, wearing a crisp white dress shirt and a gray suit: he knew he was going to be somebody's rain cloud.  He was going to roll in, get taken for a few, raise the stakes, and then crack those balls like thunder.  That was the plan.  That was the creed.  That was Danny's image of God, and he made it happen, bobbing his head like a rooster the whole time that he grinned and whistled his way into people's pockets.

Danny eyed the tables, displaying his smile like pearls in a jewelry display.  He saw one in the back right corner not being used, right next to a skinny old dude with ears like butterfly wings.  He turned to the man behind the counter and said, "I'll take that cue behind you and that back table," and slapped a bill on the green felt of the counter.  "And you can keep the change, big fella."  The man behind the counter had to have been over seven feet tall--a literal giant--and as Danny approached the back table he thought about the size of Big Roy's hands and how they could break a man his size.  Then he chalked the stick and shook his head, "Nah, tonight's my night.  I can feel it," bent over, and sent the cue ball hurtling towards the Big Bang.  Crack!  And the balls split apart like atoms.

"Tonight's my night."  This time he said it louder, hoping the words would land like pollen in the ears of the man at the table next to him, and they did.

"Are you askin' for a game, boy?  'Cause I'll give you one."

"I ain't askin.'  I'm pleadin.'"

"Alright then.  The name's Mr. Miller, but you can call me Reggie.  What'll it be?"

Danny felt like a fisherman who didn't even have to bait his hook.  "Wanna go fifty a game for starters?"

"Fifty a game?  Your shoes and suit ain't even worth that much.  Cloth looks thin as the paper I use to wipe my ass."

Danny laughed.  "I don't have to worry about it.  I don't plan on doing much losin.'"

"Fifty it is then 'cause I know I'm good for it."

Danny played well the first game, but he left two or three balls on the table.  Then he lost a couple more, getting worse each game.  By this time, the hall was emptying out, and he decided to raise the stakes and flash a little lightning.  "If I'm gonna get to where I'm goin,' maybe we ought to make it a hundred a game.  I don't have time to win my money back at fifty a break.  Whattya say?"

"I'd say you're a fool.  You've been losin' and you ain't changed a thing, so you're either gonna keep losin'. . . or you been playin' me for a fool."  Reggie stared Danny right in the eyes, like a bull watching a matador, or an actor mocking his director.  "So which is it?"

Danny thought about backing out or at least keeping the stakes the same, but there was no one here and money to be had, like kernels of corn sitting in a barn yard--he had to pick them up.

"Make it a hundred."  Danny lost two more games before he started to sink balls into pockets like he was putting the planets in orbit, and then he started to talk.  "Whew!  I ain't playin' like no boy now.  When I leave yall gonna be callin' me man, maybe even daddy.  I ain't ever been this lucky."

"Yeah, you're on a real hot streak."  Reggie said.  "The weather has definitely changed for you my son."

"Oh, it's sunshine alright.  Nothin' but sunshine and green fields of money."

Danny bent over to eye up the next shot.  All he had to do was sink the eight ball, and he'd win enough to walk out of Larry's with a decent amount of cabbage tucked in his pockets, just one more game.  He eyed up the eight ball and struck the cue ball dead in its center and watched it collide with the eight ball like a bullet through glass.  The eight ball landed in the corner pocket and then rolled through the metal maze of the table's rib cage.  Danny threw down his stick and slapped the table, unable to see that Reggie was motioning for Big Roy and Tyler to come and pay the table a visit.  Danny turned to face Reggie, "Well, I guess I should be goin.'"  He reached out his hand for money.

"I guess this is yours."  Reggie handed him the money and walked away, exiting out the back door.

"Oh, don't be sad, man.  It's just a game.  Just a game and some money."  Danny laughed and then turned to walk out the front, but he found himself face to face with a wall of muscle, comprised of a seven foot black giant and a stocky, white mule of a man.

The one named Tyler spoke up, "You should have kept losing."

Danny reached for the pool stick, but they were too quick.  Tyler jerked it off the table and whacked it on the side of Danny's head, causing him to stumble.  One of them grabbed the back of his head and his shoulder and manhandled him onto the table. He then looked up into Tyler's bulging eye balls as the man pressed down on his throat with a pool stick, causing Danny to whisper and hiss, "Take the money. . . just take it. . . and I won't ever come back."

"Oh, we know you ain't comin' back, not after tonight."

Big Roy pried open Danny's jaws and pushed the egg white cue ball, chalked in faint blue veins, into his mouth.  His cheeks felt like they were ripping at their seams, and Danny could feel the pool ball grind against his teeth as Big Roy wrenched it towards his throat, and out of desperation he prepared to swallow, hoping to God not to choke on it, while his legs flailed a path into the green lawn of the table.

The photo credit once again goes to Mike Langston.  Who knew Danny Granger and Paul Newman had so much in common?


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