This upcoming Wednesday. New York. 11:30 pm.
A razorwire would have gotten stuck in the tension that filled the room, like peanut butter on a nervous stomach. Billy Hunter stared at the paper in front of him. Derek Fisher leaned over his shoulder, reading it as well.
“What do you think?” Hunter muttered, trying to move his lips as little as possible.
Fisher inhaled deeply, and closed his eyes. He rubbed his hands over his smooth head. To those watching, it was like seeing him spin the ball, preparing for a free throw. He opened his eyes slowly. He and Hunter looked at each other. They nodded slightly, and several of the people surrounding the table could be heard to inhale slightly. Hunter and Fisher turned together towards the owners, sitting across from them.
David Stern stared back, waiting.
“Let’s do it,” said Hunter, breaking into a wide smile.
The room burst into applause, and cries of “YES!” from those assembled. Several whistles rang off the sound proof walls, outside of which members of the media had been waiting for hours, tweeting, eating pizza, and hoping for THIS news to come trickling from the negotiating room, like water dropping into a drowning man’s mouth, through mysterious, unnamed sources in unsatisfying, tantalizing drops. But now, it had happened. It was real.
They had reached an agreement!
As a jubilant group of players, owners, and lawyers, shook each other’s hands, laughing and celebrating, Stern closed his briefcase and stood up.
“I’ll be telling the media, then,” he said.
A tall figure rose from the corner, his suit seeming to unfold beneath him. Towering above the other men standing around him, his dark eyes glared across the table, settling themselves on Stern.
“Hunter should tell them,” said Kevin Garnett, a note of menace in his voice.
The laughter died. Everyone looked around, suddenly nervous.
“Why, Kevin?” said Stern.
Garnett just glowered at him.
“Kevin,” muttered Hunter. “It will be a joint conference. I’ll be there too. I don’t care if David tells them. That’s fine. Everyone will just be happy to see the NBA back in action.”
Garnett shook his head.
“We earned this,” he said, looking around him at his fellow players. “It was us. The players. We gave you our concessions. We should get to look like good guys. We tell the media.”
Michael Jordan stood up. There were audible groans from around the table.
“You will do what WE say, Garnett,” snarled MJ. “We give the conference. You sit and listen behind us.”
The players present immediately began shouting. The owners quickly joined in, and suddenly it was another scene of chaos, this time an angry one. Only Garnett could be heard above the others, yelling.
“You’re a cancer, Jordan!” screamed Garnett. “All of you owners, you are cancerous to these negotiations and to the league!”
Stern sat back down in his chair and rested his forehead in his hands. He looked across the table, and saw Hunter mouthing wordlessly at Garnett, horrified.
Fisher meanwhile, was quietly gathering his things. While the rest of the group was caught up in the argument, he left the room. The media, sitting outside the door, were unprepared, but upon seeing Fisher, they dropped their pizza, grabbed their recorders, and pressed in around him.
Fisher stared at them. He looked back over his shoulder and sighed deeply.
“I’m sorry guys,” he said. “We don’t have a deal.”
“Will it happen soon?” “Will we have a season, Derek?”
Fisher rubbed his head again.
“I can’t speculate on that,” he said, but as he said it, he felt months of frustration building up inside him, and he felt the unfairness of it all come pouring out. “But it’s not looking too damn likely, is it?”