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Deron Williams Takes His Act To New Jersey--Indefinitely

February 23, 2011

Carmelo got traded to the Knicks. The Jazz got scared, so they traded Deron Williams to the Nets. Langston made a picture, and I wrote a story. Enjoy:




The place was a dive bar, run by a rich Russian, who was not much on class but talked a big game. Watered down tradition and stiff drinks were the local calling cards, but Deron liked them. He leaned over from his piano bench--fingers still slaying the ivory, mournful music rising like elephants--and ordered another drink. He would like the place just fine with the right amount of alcohol. In fact, with the right amount of intoxicants flowing through his veins, his vision just might become blurry enough to make New Jersey's traffic lights glow like Brooklyn, or even Manhattan. Deron wanted the big stage and the giant billboards, but there was something too blue in his jazz piano stylings to ever grab the mainstream. He was stuck somewhere between almost and famous, between this drink and the next, between an octave people can hear and an octave people can feel: Deron Williams was playing jazz in a dark New Jersey bar.

The drink came, and he sipped it through a straw, holding it in his right hand, tickling the ivory with his left. He wasn't listening to the drums or the brass. They would follow his lead; he was the talent. His real band was broken up, discarded, and scattered, raising families out in Utah, or doing grunt work in Chicago. He didn't need any of that. He eyed the girl in the front row--Brook Lopez. She was all legs and curly hair. He thought about how she could be a fun night; a forgettable romp and the keys to a city that had no locks. She looked easy, and Deron Williams felt hard as ebony. This was life on the road: sweaty, dingy, all smoke and no flame. Deron pointed to the drummer, whose name he couldn't remember, and watched the fellow bang out a few fills and hammer the cymbal home. Deron rose up from his piano bench and took a bow; he had just finished his second set.

"I got your bags packed," said Sloan, Deron's manager. "We can make the airport in a half hour and be on the plane in another. Utah, we're comin' home."

Deron's eyes shifted around the room. He couldn't look his longtime manager in the eye; the man always made him feel like he was four years old and two feet tall. He sat his glass down on a passing waitress' tray and rubbed his hands together, blowing on them as if they were cold.

"What's wrong, Deron?" asked Sloan. "We said this would only be a quick stop. A quick run east for a few fast bucks and then back to normal--West coast jazz."

Deron looked past Sloan; from where he stood, he could see the long, thick legs of the girl most men would describe as a Caveman lawyer--but all he could see was fire.

"What is it, Deron?" Sloan could sense he was losing his pupil. "The weather here is shit. Yeah, we've got snow, but we've got mountains, too. What's the snow without mountains? It's a cold desert I tell you--a cold fuckin' desert."

"Jerry, man, I'm stayin'." Deron patted Sloan on the shoulder and walked back to the piano, calling up a solo number from the bones of his fingers. Behind him, Sloan just stood, drop jawed and paralyzed, and as the notes poured out of Deron, Sloan took tiny step after tiny step out of the back room and out into the street, receding slowly like a beachfront from the ocean. Deron Williams had broken the old man, and he never came east again. At the end of the night, the curly haired vixen threw some loose change into a rusted brass spittoon, and the money rattled round in the metal canister like a beat inside of a bass drum and then fell silent. Deron never got her number, but he did take that change home and sleep with it under his pillow, like a kid who still believed in make believe and happy ever afters. 

2 comments:

Iceman, AD said...

Are we sure the above picture isn't D.J. Augustin?

February 26, 2011 at 9:05 PM
Teach said...

We are b/c Raymond Felton was not in the audience. (Sorry that joke came from circa two years ago)

February 27, 2011 at 11:12 AM

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