Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Drawing a Line in the Sand

Slugline: Notable NBA players, union representatives and Billy Hunter argue over whether to accept the 'Deliverance' ultimatum issued by the Owners... but are they alone?


          INT. BACK ROOM, NEW YORK HOTEL -- DAY

          Deep burgundy carpeting with walls of wood paneling and
          drapes obscuring any view outside.  Dim lighting, shadows
          hiding the corners of the room- are they empty?

          Seated around the thirty-foot-long, oak table are:

          The PLAYERS ASSOCIATION REPRESENTATIVES from each NBA team,

          DEREK FISHER- 30s, declining skills on the court but
          rightfully respected off of it, president of the Players
          Association,

          BILLY HUNTER- late60s/early 70s, formerly an NFL player and
          United States Attorney, now the executive director of the
          Players Association,

          and an ASSORTMENT of notable NBA players.

          Hunter clears his throat.

                              BILLY HUNTER
                    In the last collective bargaining
                    agreement, you players hauled in
                    fifty-seven percent of all
                    basketball related income.  The
                    owners' offer is now fifty
                    percent.  What's a seven percent
                    drop mean?  Over ten years, even
                    dropping just one point loses you
                    477 million dollars.

                              DEREK FISHER
                    That's four of Rashard Lewis...

                              THE PLAYERS IN UNISON
                    Damn!

                              DEREK FISHER
                    ...or 238 of our boy Luc over here.

          EVERYONE ERUPTS in laughter...

          DWIGHT HOWARD (20s, faster than a speeding bullet, more
          powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a
          single bound) falls off his chair and tumbles around like
          Cristiano Ronaldo taking a dive.  (That's sort of Howard's
          trademark, to overreact in the most look-at-me fashion
          imaginable.)

          ...everyone except for LUC RICHARD MBAH A MOUTE (20s, one of
          the NBA's best defenders, owner of a Player Efficiency
          Rating -- a rating that hardly includes defense -- of only
          .5 less than Lewis last season) who hangs his head,
          dejected.

                              BILLY HUNTER
                    As it stands, Stern and the owners
                    are asking you to give up 3.4
                    billion dollars.  In-

                              ZAZA PACHULIA
                    Hang on.

          Pachulia (20s, a hard-worker and serviceable enough, a bit
          brash and petulant but in the AJ Pierzynski endearing to his
          teammates sort of way) scribbles furiously on his legal pad-

                              ZAZA PACHULIA
                    Just checking your math on that...
                         (finishes)
                    Pssh.  If you round up.

                              BILLY HUNTER
                    Uhh... continuing, they're also
                    wanting to implement a harder
                    salary cap which would restrict
                    player movement in the name of
                    competitive balance, something that
                    all economists worth a damn say
                    won't be achieved.  And instead of
                    implementing an NFL-style revenue
                    sharing program, which the owners
                    selfishly can't agree on, they've
                    decided to try to take everything
                    from you players.  Gentleman, this
                    is a bad deal, and to even bring it
                    to our membership, to even give
                    this ultimatum any consideration,
                    would be a colossal misstep.  It'd
                    be the Bay of Pigs all over again.

          Blank stares greet Hunter from around the table.

                              BILLY HUNTER
                    The Bay of Pigs?  The CIA-

                              KOBE BRYANT
                    We meet the appropriate threshold
                    of intellectual capital to get that
                    reference, Bill.  We just didn't
                    feel it was worth responding to. 
                    That was one hundred yards ago.

          Bryant- 30s, not as good as Michael Jordan, already has his
          championships, a bit of an aloof jerk.

                              BILLY HUNTER
                    It was forty years ago, Kobe.

                              KOBE BRYANT
                    Were any of us players alive for
                    that?  No?  Then so what.

          Kurt Thomas (39) nods with great enthusiasm.

          Beat.

                              LEBRON JAMES
                    So we've already agreed to take
                    fifty-two percent?

          James- 20s, not as good as Kobe, has zero championships but
          acts like he's already won not five, not six, not seven, but
          at least eight rings, quite the prima donna.

                              BILLY HUNTER
                    That's right.

                              ZAZA PACHULIA
                    You're saying we already agreed to
                    lose 2.4 billion dollars over ten
                    years?

                              KEVIN GARNETT
                    Check out the big brain on Brad!

          Garnett- 30s, probably one of the thirty best players ever,
          a mushroom cloud laying motherfucker, turns into Superfly
          TNT and the Guns of the Navarone when even slightly annoyed.

          Pachulia furrows his brow and stares dead ahead at Garnett.

                              ZAZA PACHULIA
                    You're making fun of me?

                              GARNETT
                    No.

                              ZAZA PACHULIA
                    Okay then.

          Order is restored.

                              GARNETT
                    But if I was-

                              PAUL PIERCE
                         (quiet)
                    Relax, KG.  Just blindside him 
                    walking out of here like last time.

          PIERCE- 30s, has adapted his game as he's grown older,
          survived being stabbed, hard to dislike.

                              ZAZA PACHULIA
                    What?

                              PAUL PIERCE
                    Nothing.

          Pierce and Garnett bump fists.

                              BILLY HUNTER
                    I know 2.4 billion sounds like a
                    lot, but we thought a compromise on
                    BRI to save both the season and
                    your pay for this season-

                              MATT BONNER
                    'Your pay for this season'?  You
                    thought throwing away 2.4 billion
                    dollars for us to be paid what the
                    contracts we signed guaranteed us
                    for this season was fair?  No side
                    comes away from negotiations happy,
                    unless you're Rashard Lewis, of
                    course, but COME ON.

          Bonner- a redhead in the NBA. (Nothing else to add: he's a
          ginger in the NBA.  Imagine all the jokes and chants he
          heard on the court growing up.  He must be a badass with a
          chip on his shoulder the size of LeBron's ego.)

                              BILLY HUNTER
                    It's not that simple, Matt.  The
                    league is saying-

                              MATT BONNER
                    Don't even start with their losing
                    money propaganda.  The average NBA
                    franchise has increased their
                    valuation over 160 million dollars
                    in the last ten years.  4.8 BILLION
                    cumulatively.  Even if the league
                    really lost the 340 million they're
                    claiming they did one year ago,
                    and even if we, as a thought
                    experiment, had them losing that
                    same 340 million each year for the
                    last decade, they're still clearing
                    1.4 billion dollars!

                              BILLY HUNTER
                    You don't think I know this?

                              MATT BONNER
                    This has nothing to do with any
                    structural problems or our
                    salaries, salaries that have only
                    increased at the same rate which
                    league-wide revenues have
                    increased.  No, Billy, this crisis
                    is purely a case of the owners
                    wanting more because they think
                    they can pull off taking more! 
                    Hell, 250 million of their stated
                    losses last year is from teams
                    "amortizing certain assets related
                    to the purchase of the teams" and 
                    the roster depreciation allowance
                    that lets teams claim the value of
                    their franchise as a loss over a 
                    period of fifteen years!  So not
                    only are they not losing the money
                    they say they're losing, but
                    they're asking us to subsidize
                    their purchase!  We don't get any
                    of the profit when a team is sold
                    but they're expecting us to pay for
                    owners buying a team?  The Wizards
                    sold for seventy-percent above
                    Forbes' valuation of 322 million! 
                    Where's our cut of that?  Forbes
                    had the Warriors valued at 363
                    million last year and they were
                    sold for 450 million!

                              BILLY HUNTER
                    You don't think I know this!?  I
                    was out in front of this from the
                    very beginning!

                              MATT BONNER
                    Then how is Ken Berger writing
                    the filth he's writing without
                    any sort of repudiation from you!?

          Bonner's face has turned as red as his hair-

                              MATT BONNER
                         (continuing)
                    How are you not out in front of the
                    cameras going all Ross Perot with
                    charts and a damned works cited
                    page?  Oh, that's right, because
                    you're too busy already giving them
                    two billion some odd dollars when
                    they're not losing any money to
                    begin with.  You are just THE
                    WORST.

                              DEREK FISHER
                    Hey, Matt, easy man, Billy has
                    been-

                              BILLY HUNTER
                    No, Derek.  He's right.  I -- you,
                    me, the executive leadership --
                    we've been too quick to acquiesce
                    to the owners and their demands. 
                    Even though we know Stern and the
                    lot of them are lying through their
                    teeth, we've been negotiating with
                    them under the hope they actually
                    care about the upcoming season and
                    the fanbase that just experienced
                    one of the best seasons ever. 
                    We've agreed to give up billions of
                    dollars not in the name of doing
                    what's right or playing a fair part
                    but in the name of pragmatism and
                    placation.  And in return, all
                    we've gotten from them are more
                    demands and ultimatums, each one
                    more unreasonable and more punitive
                    than the one before it.

          A solemn Hunter looks around the table.  He sees the bowed
          heads, defeated faces and deflated hopes of the players. 
          His own face mirrors what lays before him.

                              BILLY HUNTER
                    But you all need to listen to me,
                    and listen to me now:

          Hunter undergoes a transformation: where he was meek and
          full of despair is replaced by only the anger and
          empowerment one can have upon being objectively wronged-

                              BILLY HUNTER
                         (continuing)
                    THAT.  CHANGES.  NOW.  Ohhh,
                    Daaaavvvvvvviiiiiid?

          The players around the table look at each other-

          From the darkness in the far corner emerges a figure-

                              BILLY HUNTER
                    Gentlemen, may I present to you
                    David Boies.

          DAVID BOIES- 60s, one of the best trial lawyers that's ever
          lawyered, represented Napster, challenged California's 'Prop
          8' gay marriage ban and won (although the judgment was
          stayed by the Ninth Circuit Court), donated $5 million to a
          hospital for a new emergency room, might actually have a set
          of respectable principles.

          Every player is expressionless...

          ...except for KEVIN DURANT (20s, both laid-back and
          charismatic, a natural leader, what Tim Thomas would've been
          as an offensive player if Tim Thomas actually cared about
          basketball) who leaps up and pumps his fists.

          Every player looks at him with the same confused look.

                              KEVIN DURANT
                    Really?  You guys never saw HBO's
                    'Recount'?

                              CARLOS BOOZER
                    That was the one with Pacino as
                    Kevorkian, right?  The one that was
                    both a great portrait of a pioneer
                    for patient rights and a compelling
                    telling of one man's journey to
                    ease suffering and stay one step
                    ahead of a reactionary government
                    stubbornly refusing to grant dying
                    people dignity?

          Boozer- late 20s, as clueless playing defense as he is about
          remembering which HBO film was which.

                              KEVIN DURANT
                    Damnit, Carlos, that was 'You Don't
                    Know Jack'.  'Recount' was about
                    the 2000 Presidential Election and
                    how Florida election officials and
                    the Republican party conspired to
                    ensure recount efforts were
                    destabilized through baseless
                    accusations and outright sabotaging
                    and also the wrongful suppression
                    of voting rights for thousands of
                    African-Americans.  Starring Kevin
                    Spacey.

                              CARLOS BOOZER
                    Oh.  Then no, I didn't see it.  But
                    'You Don't Know Jack'?  Shit was
                    tight.

                              AMAR'E STOUDEMIRE
                    I don't know, guys.

          Stoudemire- late 20s, the basketball equivalent of a weight
          lifter who only works his glory muscles.

                              KEVIN DURANT
                    You saw 'Recount'?

                              AMAR'E STOUDEMIRE
                    Nah, I- well, no, I didn't see it,
                    but...

          Stoudemire sizes Boies up. Boies, perplexed, just squints at
          him-

                              AMAR'E STOUDEMIRE
                         (continuing)
                    ...he doesn't look... like me, know
                    what I mean?

          The table is silent.  An actual cricket might have chirped.

                              AMAR'E STOUDEMIRE
                    Like, he's not... LIKE ME, you know
                    what I mean?

                              DEREK FISHER
                    Amar'e, I can assure you, none of
                    us have any idea what you mean.

                              AMAR'E STOUDEMIRE
                    You guys are really going to make
                    me say it, aren't you?

                              DEREK FISHER
                    Say what?

          Stoudemire, who has Hebrew roots through his mother,
          hesitates-

                              AMAR'E STOUDEMIRE
                    He's... fine.  He doesn't look like
                    a Jew.

          Everyone at the table who doesn't firmly press the palm of
          their hands to their foreheads rolls their eyes and GROANS.

                              DEREK FISHER
                    Oh Jesus Christ-

                              KEVIN GARNETT
                    Don't blaspheme!

                              PAUL PIERCE
                    Goddamnit, Kevin-

                              KEVIN GARNETT
                    I said don't do that!

                              BILLY HUNTER
                    Gentlemen!

          Silence.

                              BILLY HUNTER
                         (continuing)
                    What I propose... we serve notice
                    of disclaimer and then we go and
                    hit Stern and the owners with the
                    mother of all antitrust suits. 
                    With David here, you know what?  It
                    gives us a chance.

                              DAVID BOIES
                    The owners have been acting as if
                    they have all the leverage.  Which,
                    given their apparent lack of giving
                    a damn about actually playing the
                    what once was upcoming season,
                    appears to be true.  But this suit,
                    the threat of us winning in court
                    and getting a massive damage
                    payout, should be enough to, if not
                    give us the leverage, at least make
                    them open to actually negotiating
                    in good faith.  This suit opens
                    them up to a world of risk that
                    they just cannot ignore.  I think
                    this ordeal gets solved at the
                    negotiating tables.  Not in front
                    of a judge.

                              JARED DUDLEY
                    ...but what if they refuse sitting
                    down with us?  I'm Jared, by the-

          Dudley- 20s, an energetic player, an emerging auteur, a
          large personality, a good guy for the locker room.

                              DAVID BOIES
                    Jared Dudley, born the tenth of
                    July, 1985.  2007 ACC Player of the
                    Year, drafted twenty-second overall
                    by the Charlotte Bobcats, traded to
                    the Phoenix Suns on the eighteenth
                    of December, 2008.  Captures candid
                    videos of his teammates and often
                    uploads them to the internet as a
                    presentation by JMZ, a somewhat, I
                    guess, decent play on TMZ, kind of.

                              JARED DUDLEY
                    Whoa.

                              DAVID BOIES
                    Mister Dudley, I'm not that big of
                    a fan of the NBA.  If I'm being
                    honest, basketball doesn't do much
                    for me.  By extension, I'm not a
                    fan of yours.  It's not personal,
                    it's just that your brand of ice
                    cream isn't one I'd scoop into my
                    cone.  I'm not a fan of yours, but
                    I know your personal information
                    because it's my job to know every
                    piece of information about this
                    whole sordid mess that there is to
                    or can ever be known.  I learned
                    all this about you, and the same
                    for every player in this room, on
                    the cab ride over, when my
                    assistant read me all of your
                    wikipedia pages.  Read TO me, not
                    read BY me, because I'm dyslexic,
                    and it's easier for me to process
                    new information through auditory
                    measures.  This also means I don't
                    have the luxury of notes to help me
                    when in trial.  Since I'm the best
                    at what I do, feel free to assume I
                    can memorize anything, and that not
                    only is my brain capable of
                    memorizing forests-worth of legal
                    histories and precedents and case
                    particulars and nuances, but it's
                    also capable of taking everything I
                    have memorized -- a feat that,
                    truly, very few can do even half as
                    well as me -- and then put it all
                    into a coherent, persuasive
                    argument in a courtroom -- a feat
                    that even fewer can dream of.  So
                    what happens if they don't sit down
                    with us at the table?  They get me,
                    in court, is what happens.

                              KEVIN GARNETT
                    Shit Negro, that's all you had to
                    say!



10 comments:

  1. This was well done. Well done indeed.
    But, speaking from experience, all the great information you presented will be ignored by most people despite the creative presentation.

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  2. this was the best nba piece i've read probably ever....awesome!

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  3. Nice work, creative, funny but solid facts and information rolled in ... you got skilz kid!!! both as a writer(fiction or otherwise) and content.

    Keep it up.

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  4. So great! I love the Intellectual Capital part.

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  5. dope. best breakdown i've seen.

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  6. guess i'm the meat head of the bunch, i watched that KG pick like 15 times. i miss B ball. nba.

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  7. All I can is thanks for the kind words.

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  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  9. The owners have always stood behind their couriers and this has always impressed me. The level of professionalism they exude is exhibited in the way the couriers conduct themselves.

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