“Yo Frank, there’s another Knicks headline. You, uh, might not like this one.”
“What’s it say? They traded me?” Frank asked, privately thinking that getting traded away from the Knicks wouldn’t be the worst thing that had ever happened to him. He swung his legs out of the leg press machine so that if the news really was bad, he wouldn’t injure himself in surprise.
Kevin Knox peered closer into his phone as if to verify what he was reading. “It says that the Knicks are going to build around RJ going forward.”
“Not me? Not you? Not Julius?”
“I guess not,” Kevin said. “Good for him though. Apparently they’re going to ‘surround him with shooters’. Guess I should get out of the weight room and start putting up some shots, huh?”
Frank didn’t say anything for a while. He knew he wasn’t a ‘shooter’ the way that his coaches wanted him to be. And apparently he wasn’t as valued in the organization as RJ Barrett. Were they going to give up on his development just like that? After three seasons of relentless hard work despite inconsistent minutes and subpar teammates?
He watched as his teammate and workout buddy grabbed a ball and headed out to the adjacent court to keep working on his three-point shot. Frank wasn’t going to do that. He didn’t need to prove his value in that way. His value spoke for itself, even if the Knicks organization didn’t recognize it.
Calling a rarely-dialed number on his phone, Frank smiled when the call was answered. “Hey Bobby, I got a favor to ask…”
“You were super vague on the phone. I don’t even know what this is about. Did Dolan do something dumb again?”
Frank was sitting in the apartment of his teammate Bobby Portis. A cat named Niko was going back and forth between him and Bobby, wanting attention but not receiving it from the distracted men. “You’re an expert at engaging in violence with teammates, right?”
“I’m not sure I want to answer that question,” Bobby replied.
“You know better than anyone that the answer to locker room strife is to assert dominance over others through the use of fists and optionally other weapons as well,” Frank went on. “There’s no point being coy, dude. You beat that guy to a pulp. You put him in the hospital. And all your problems were solved from that point forward.”
Niko could not tolerate being ignored for any longer and had jumped into Bobby’s lap. “What happened on the Bulls should never have happened. It was a big mistake.”
Frank leaned forward. “Let’s say that, hypothetically, and this is all hypothetical of course, you found out your team was going to build around another young player rather than you. What kind of physical attack would you launch on them to ensure that you were the one who was built around?”
Shaking his head, Bobby replied, “I saw that headline. If you want to beat up RJ, first of all, I strongly discourage it, and second of all, I’m not getting involved.”
“Come on, man. I need you to be my MMA coach so I can kick RJ’s ass and scare him into demanding a trade like KP did.”
“Need I remind you that I have a video on my phone that features you calling Dolan’s band ‘J.D. and the Straight Shit’?” Frank got out his phone and started browsing through his gallery until he found it. The incriminating audio blasted at full volume through the apartment. “The ‘share’ button is right here. Just one slip of the finger and…”
“Fine! Fine!” Bobby replied angrily. “Show up here tomorrow at seven AM and I’ll help turn your scrawny little fists into weapons of mass destruction.”
“He’ll be here any second,” Frank said, still stunned at the ingenuity of his plan to arrange a fake “team practice” in order to lure RJ to the Knicks’ practice facility. “It’s gonna be so awesome when I’m the one who gets shooters put around him.”
“Hey Frank, where’s everybody else?” RJ asked, walking across the empty court and setting his gym bag against the wall. “Am I early?”
“You’re early for the practice, BUT YOU’RE ON TIME FOR A MAJOR LEAGUE ASS-KICKING!” Frank yelled, charging at his teammate with his fists extended in front of him. In his excitement, he didn’t remember any of Bobby’s advice on how to properly square up and throw a left hook. Tackling RJ to the ground and proceeding with the fight from that advantageous position seemed like a good option, so that’s what he tried to do.
It didn’t work. RJ was too big to be tackled easily, and when Frank went to his plan B of executing ninja-style kicks, RJ barely had to move to avoid getting hit. “I’m kicking your ass, RJ! I’ll be the franchise cornerstone for sure!”
“Stop it, dude, you’re embarrassing yourself,” Bobby said as he walked over and easily dragged Frank away by the waist.
Frank struggled and flailed. “Put me down! I almost had him! The team is mine!!”
“Shut up, it doesn’t matter,” Bobby said. “By this time next year it’s going to be LaMelo Ball’s team anyway.”