A single grimy lightbulb illuminated the sparsely furnished room. A large man sat a cluttered desk, starting intently at the wall. Behind him, a black-and-white dog sat whimpering, pushing his bowl against his owner’s leg with his nose.
“Shhhh, Tornjak. I feed you very soon. Being quiet now. Daddy is think.” Jusuf Nurkic muttered distractedly, pushing the bowl away. “This meaning something.”
In front of him on the wall was a vast collage of various papers and images, with lines drawn haphazardly between them. A map of eastern Europe with many locations marked with x’s was flanked by several Serbian newspaper articles. A picture of Mike Malone was connected to headshots of several of his former teammates. Screenshots of twitter conversations were scrawled over with the word “FBI”. A topographical map of the greater Denver area was overlaid with what appeared to be a shot-chart printed from ESPN. Jusuf’s own face was prominent in the mixture, with lines extending from his likenesses to almost all the other material on the wall.
Jusuf stared at this confusing menagerie with seeming understanding. He stared. And he stared. Tornjak continued his whimpering, but Jusuf was now fully engrossed.
“I’VE GOT IT!” He shouted suddenly, flinging himself off the chair. Using both hands, he sifted wildly through the papers on his desk in a frenzy before finding what he was looking for. He held it up in front of him, as if it was a sacred relic, before taping it to a relatively sparse section of the wall. He looked at this new info happily for a few seconds, gazing at the new possibilities, before frowning and turning away.
“No, no… all is wrong!” Jusuf murmured, slumping not into his chair, but onto the bare concrete floor, head in his hands. Tornjak, sensing his owner’s sadness, padded over to him and buried his head in his owner’s chest. “It all wrong, Tornjak, everything is being wrong!” Jusuf moaned, taking his dog in his arms. “Things were not supposing to be this way!”
At the center of the collection was a picture, torn clean in half but still display as one, of Jusuf and Nikola Jokic at their first Nuggets training camp together, arms around each other’s shoulders, both smiling broadly at the camera. Jokic’s face had been crossed off with a large red X, and over Jusuf’s smile was thick black grimace.