It was a dark night in Utah, but, then again, it always is. I was sitting in my two-bit office in downtown Salt Lake when she walked in. She looked like the best years of her life had left her on the side of her road and stolen her phone charger for good measure. I pointed at a seat in front of my weather-beaten desk and told her to tell me all about it.
“Got anything to drink in this flophouse?” she said, sizing up my digs.
“Sister, you must be new to Utah.”
She sighed, pulled out a flask, and took a pull of what must have been holy water, because it exorcised a dark story she had to tell. Even if it killed us both.
“There’s something wrong with the Jazz, and I’m not talking about La La Land,” she said.
She was speaking in tongues — a long, drawn-out story about hope and heartbreak, and Frenchmen assigning blame. I told her, “I don’t do Agatha Christie, ma cherie,” but she wasn’t in the joking mood.
“You don’t understand. The Jazz haven’t been to the playoffs since 2012. This means so much to the people here. To see it jeopardized by one man’s selfishness … I couldn’t be silent. You have to help me.”
She went on to tell me a tale about Rudy Gobert, an early-afternoon game in Los Angeles against the Clippers that the Jazz lost, and a postgame interview where Gobert called out a teammate by everything but his name. Utah was going to the playoffs, but its postseason was already on the ropes. One player was taking shots he shouldn’t, and the kid from Saint-Quinten wasn’t having it.
“It’s just pre-playoff nerves. I see it all the time,” I said, trying to calm her down.
“You don’t get it. How could you. You’re just a man, sitting in this dumb office. I need to know who he is talking about.”
“Sure, Angel. Whatever you say.” I hadn’t worked an NBA case in a long time. Not since Deron Williams left. But something about her story had me by the heart. Or what was left of it.
She left in hurry, even forgot her flask. I stood up, put on my coat, locked my file cabinet, grabbed my phone, grabbed a Mophie in case I was going to be out late, walked to the door, and took one last rueful look at my office. If this case was what I thought it was, it might be the last time I ever set eyes on it.
Then it hit me. The case was cracked before I cracked my office door. I went to my desk, opened up my laptop, and went to the place where unsolved mysteries get solved by people who are not professional mystery-solvers: Reddit.
There were a few suspects. Gobert could be talking about Rodney Hood, who went 4-for-13 from the field. What’s a guy like that doing, shooting 31 percent from the field? Maybe it was Joe Johnson. I had heard that old gunslinger was in town. But then it hit me. And when I say, “then it hit me,” I mean, then I found this page: “What happened to George Hill?”
Turns out the old Pacer was driving in circles and driving Utah fans mad in the bargain. He was 4-for-11 that day and a minus-29. I’ve seen cadavers do better. There were rumors all over the net: Hill was hunting for stats, looking for big money. Sure, sure. Aren’t we all?
The case was solved. Or was it? Was any case ever really over? I looked out the window, the moon hanging low over the Wasatch mountains.
“Here’s to you, Rudy,” I said, taking a pull off the holy water. It tasted like bourbon.