Officials from the league and players' union talked for 16 hours in what became the longest NBA lockout meeting ever on Tuesday and early Wednesday. Mum was the word coming out of the meeting, as neither side spoke to media on the record. A few enterprising zombie-reporters tortured info out of sources, and that info pointed to no major progress in the talks.
But look: no one meets for 16 hours and gets nothing done. I have worked in some of the least productive environments on the planet, and no one meets for 16 hours without something happening. Also consider that some of those involved are professional basketball players (Roger Mason, Jr., Theo Ratliff), and these men are not accustomed to sitting bored in a hotel for hours on end, with no payoff at the end of the day. These are men of action! Something totally happened.
Or maybe some things totally happened. Maybe the course of the talks set in motion a series of intractable consequences that shall only reveal themselves in time. Maybe there are now seven alternate NBA lockout timelines. Oh, no. Oh god, no.
TIMELINE 1: DID I NOT ASK FOR NEOPOLITAN?!
Mediator George Cohen slowly works through minute details of each side's positions on literally everything under the sun, including Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan. (Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck notes that he likes to jack up the residential tax in Sim City 4 once he builds a half-dozen Governor's Mansions.) Finally, around dinner time, Cohen cuts through and gets the sides to agree on a 51.5 percent split of revenue and a modified luxury tax plan. The players' union orders a round of ice cream to celebrate. Chocolate and vanilla are delivered. The owners all request vanilla.
Stern, however, will only eat Neopolitan, and asks Hunter where the strawberry is. There is no strawberry. Mt. Stern erupts, sending chocolate sauce and shredded coconut flying and totally ruining Derek Fisher's best coat. "Typical. Asking for everything and flipping out when you don't get it," Hunter says. Stern begins firing plastic spoons at Hunter; Hunter responds in kind with ballpoint pens. The conference room turns into a warzone. Cohen is knocked out cold by an errant waffle cone. This lasts for six hours until Cohen finally regains consciousness and blows his safety whistle. After talking about their feelings for another two hours, Stern and Hunter agree to sit in electric chairs for Wednesday's negotiating session. Any outburst will result in a painful but not fatal shock. Impartial observer Roger Goodell will man the controls.
Fisher goes down to the lobby to slump on a bench, defeated by all of the bulls--t.
TIMELINE 2: HOW U
Cohen slowly works through minute details of each side's positions on literally everything under the sun, including the efficacy of Daylight Savings Time. (Mark Cuban wonders aloud why we can't just pay the sun to stay out 24 hours a day.) During the sides' 17th bathroom break, Adam Silver and Roger Mason, Jr. pass in the hall. Ever congenial, Silver asks, "How are you?" But Silver had bitten his tongue eating his New York strip during lunch, and his Rs sound like uhs. So Mason doesn't hear "how are you?" but "how u." The apparent slight sends Mason into a rage, and he punches Silver in the nose.
After Silver is tended to, he purses his lips in Mason's general direction and announces that the NBA's position now includes a clause that the All-Star MVP award will be renamed the Roger Mason Is A Jerk award. On behalf of the union, Mason proposes it be renamed the Roger Mason's Fist Was Hacked award. The sides cannot make progress on this matter in the remaining seven hours of the session. They will pick up the discussion on Wednesday.
Fisher goes down to the lobby to slump on a bench, defeated by all of the bulls--t.
TIMELINE 3: I HAVE KEVIN GARNETT ON LINE 1
Cohen slowly works through minute details of each side's positions on literally everything under the sun, including whether Parks and Rec is better than 30 Rock. (Dr. Jerry Buss announces that he prefers "that Whitney dame.") Around 11:30 p.m., the sides finally get to the revenue split. After two hours of discussion, Cohen says that he feels that a 51.5 percent share for players is reasonable for both sides and should be explored. On cue, the conference room receives an incoming call.
Hunter: "Don't pick that up. No, don't pick that up."
Cohen picks it up.
Cohen: "Hello, federal mediator and all-around swell guy George Cohen here. Who's this?"
Caller: "This is Kevin Garnett, goddammit."
Fisher: "Oh f--k."
Cohen: "Mr. Garnett, what a pleasure. You'll be pleased to know we're working hard to get a --"
Garnett: "NO DEAL."
The union reps shrink in their seats. Stern's face turns a shade of red somewhat darker than blood.
Cohen: "Uh, pardon?"
Garnett: "NO F--KING DEAL GODDAMMIT."
Cohen: "But you don't even know the parameters of --"
Garnett: "Motherf--ker I said no deal. Do I have to get on FaceTime and tell you 'No deal?' What's your iPhone number?"
Cohen hangs up.
Silver: "Uh, I think we ought to be going."
Everyone grabs their stuff and leaves in a rush. Forty-five minutes later, after the media has abandoned its post in the lobby, Garnett shows up to the hotel in a Mad Max costume. He sees a dejected Fisher setting on a bench in the lobby.
Garnett: "Hey Fish. We got a deal yet?"
TIMELINE 4: BUSINESS IS WAR
Cohen slowly works through minute details of each side's positions on literally everything under the sun, including whether the Occupy Wall Street movement is an effective use of public outrage over corporate profits. (James Dolan announces that while he digs folk music and the smell of unwashed hair, he wishes that those hippies would get off of his lawn. Literally.) By 3 p.m., the talks have progressed to the point where only the revenue split remains an issue. The league is firm at 50 percent, the union is firm at 53 percent.
Cohen suggests that, to break an arbitrary impasse, Stern and Hunter play a game of chance to settle the matter. After two hours of negotiation over which game will be played -- Stern holds out for bourré, while Hunter chooses Crazy Eights -- Cohen, exhausted and annoyed, announces that War will be the game of choice.
By the time 2 a.m. hits, Hunter has 28 cards and Stern has 24, but neither side seems to be cutting into the other's deck much. The game will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Meanwhile, Mason spends the downtime sending a direct message to every single NBA player on Twitter, Mark Cuban invents two new companies and a game show, Theo Ratliff writes the score to the Monsters Inc. sequel and Derek Fisher goes down to the lobby to sit on a bench.
TIMELINE 5: COUNT THA RINGZZZ
Cohen slowly works through minute details of each side's positions on literally everything under the sun, including the very important iOS vs. Android debate. (Robert Sarver announces that he's invested $400 million in Research in Motion, the "future of mobile computing.") Late in the afternoon, Heat owner Mickey Arison, checking his Twitter timeline (as always), announces that ESPN has named LeBron James the league's No. 1 player as a part of its #NBArank effort.
Dan Gilbert begins to breathe heavily. He takes off his wire-rimmed glasses and sets them gently on the table.
Sarver: "Uh oh."
Stern: "Oh no."
Silver: "Beep boop beep."
Derek Fisher pounds his fist on the table.
Fisher: "Are you kidding me?"
Everyone raises an eyebrow and looks at Fisher. This is the first time that he has yelled since Nick Van Exel bit him in Oakland in 2004.
Fisher: "Everybody's always asking, 'Who is better between Kobe (Bryant) and LeBron?' I'm like, 'Are you kidding me? Kobe, five championships; LeBron, zero."
Everyone else in the room remains in stunned silence ... except for Gilbert, who is muttering "Yes" after each clause Fisher utters.
Fisher: "Stop trying to compare him to Michael Jordan. Come on, man, six championships for Jordan. You know that Michael averaged over 30 points every playoff series? Don't try to touch that."
Cohen: "Derek --"
Fisher puts his hand up, palm in Cohen's face.
Fisher: "If only stats mattered, and rising to the moment did not, Joe Montana would not be the greatest quarterback of all time. His winner-take-all intangibles would pale in comparison to someone like Dan Marino.
"If this logic held, Wilt Chamberlain would be the Michael Jordan of the NBA. No one ever has, or will, compete with Wilt on the statistical plane. Yet there's a reason serious basketball people look at Jordan, Magic, Kareem, Russell and a slew of others with a higher level of respect.
"That's why 'Mr. October' means something in baseball.
Closing matters. Winning matters. Otherwise it's all just a glorified version of fantasy sports."
Fisher bangs his fist on the table and retakes his seat. Gilbert explodes into a standing ovation, shouting "Brava! Brava!" Arison, previously a dove, announces he will support no deal that moves from a 50-50 split. Gilbert and Jerry Buss caucus briefly, then announce they will move a proposal to give the players 49 percent, the owners 49 percent and Derek Fisher 2 percent for "heroic accomplishment befitting a true champion." The sides remain at a stalemate over the Fisher provision, and Cohen contemplates retirement until his wife texts him to come home at 2 a.m.
TIMELINE 6: OCCUPY NBA
Cohen slowly works through minute details of each side's positions on literally everything under the sun, including Germany's responsibility to the EuroZone. (Mark Cuban says that he wrote a clause into Dirk Nowitzki's last contract preventing him from testifying before the Bundestag in order to preserve his voice for future team-building karaoke nights in Dallas.) As the sides step through the minefield that is the hardness of the salary cap, four protesters from Occupy Wall Street burst into the conference room. A man on a bullhorn addresses the group.
Man #1: "We hereby Occupy The NBA!"
His fellow protesters cheer.
Stern: "Get the f--k out."
Man #1: "No, we will not! The Waldorf-Astoria took a tax break in 1956, therefore making it a publicly-owned space."
Silver: "I don't think that's --"
Woman #1: (into bullhorn) "We will not leave until the NBA makes important reforms that equalize the playing field for the 99 percent of NBA teams that do not win a championship every year!"
Stern and Silver exchange looks. Fisher slaps his own forehead.
Man #1: "We demand that the NBA consider legislation that will force the 1 percent of NBA teams that controls 100 percent of the annual NBA championships to share the burden of this economic crisis!"
Cuban: "Get the f--k out."
Woman #1: "Furthermore, considering that the NBA represents the top 1 percent of all basketball players in the world and makes 80 percent of all basketball revenue on the planet, we demand that NBA players begin sharing the burden of the PAIN that the basketball players in Greece and Main Street and Spain have felt!"
Chris Paul: "No seriously, get the f--k out."
Four of the protesters handcuff themselves to the nearest negotiating session participant. Hunter gets Man #1. Buss gets Woman #1. Etan Thomas is handcuffed to a man with large dreadlocks. A woman who smells like patchouli and broccoli chains herself to Stern.
Stern: "George, the gas! Everyone, your masks!"
Cohen pulls a gas mask from under the table and puts it on. All other owners, players and lawyers follow suit. Cohen then runs to a giant red switch on the wall and flips it. An odorless, dull gray gas pours out from the vents into the room. Man #1 quickly swallows a set of tiny keys.
The protesters pass out. The gas dissipates as the vents circulate through fresh air. The players, owners and lawyers remove their masks.
Stern: "Dammit, Billy, you were supposed to make sure you had the keys! Now we're attached to these f--king hippies until President Hempshirt over here has a bowel movement."
Hunter: "You overreacted, David! You went for the gas too quickly! It's your fault. Take the blame take the blame take the blame."
Stern: "Screw you."
They argue for hours. Fisher leaves, dejected and a little queasy. He fears his gas mask may have been defected. He slumps onto a bench in the lobby and falls asleep. He dreams of basketball. It is a sad dream.
TIMELINE 7: THE PRIME TIMELINE
Cohen slowly works through minute details of each side's positions on literally everything under the sun, including the mid-level exception, the luxury tax structure and the revenue split. (Robert Sarver takes a call from his wife at 8 p.m., and is heard whispering into the receiver, "No honey, I haven't asked if I can name the amnesty provision the Josh Childress rule. I will, I will. Don't worry. I will.") The sides work through each issue, with Cohen documenting why the owners and players feel they should not relent on their positions. Cohen also describes in detail the damage to the league that the lockout is causing, reads from @netw3rk's timeline and implores the men in the room to see reason over pride. Cohen lays out a detailed vision as to how Wednesday's results-oriented negotiating session will go, asks Hunter and Stern to kiss on the mouth and adjourns the meeting.
Fisher is pretty tired after a long day of work, and slumps on a bench in the hotel lobby.
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