“Yo, is something up with Jusuf?” asked Evan Turner to Meyers Leonard in the locker room before the game. He stood in front of Jusuf and waved his arms, but there was no reaction from the seven-foot Bosnian, who was staring straight ahead with a vacant look in his eyes.
“He’s getting in the zone,” Meyers replied.
Evan nodded appreciatively. “That’s good. We always do better when Nurk plays well.”
However, instead of nodding alongside his teammate, Meyers was shaking his head. “No, not that kind of zone. He’s entered a different kind of zone, one that’s entirely removed from the game of basketball we’re about to play against the Kings.”
“Oh,” Evan Turner said, continuing to stare at the disconcertingly unmoving form of Jusuf. “I don’t get it.”
“He does this sometimes,” Meyers explained. “I call it the ‘Anti-Jokic’ zone. It’s like he withdraws into this inner place within his mind where his virulent hate for Nikola Jokic festers and grows.”
“Nikola Jokic? That guy in Denver?” Evan said. “Oh yeah, I think I remember one got traded for the other.”
There was a period of silence, during which Jusuf’s lips moved slightly, forming very soft words which were almost inaudible. However, both players caught a brief section of one of these unconsciously-spoken phrases: “I hating Nikola Jokic. He ruinings career. Now, I showing him.”
Evan looked at Meyers uneasily, but Meyers didn’t seem concerned. “Usually he’ll snap out of it after he rambles like that a few times, and he’ll be really energized afterwards. It must be crazy to hate somebody so much that you involuntarily slip into a catatonic state where your entire brain is consumed by hatred towards just one individual.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty crazy,” Evan answered, looking thoroughly uncomfortable with the situation. “Good thing he doesn’t hate any of us like that.”
Meyers looked over to where Zach Collins was getting ready for the game. “I wouldn’t be so sure about that…”