Jayson Williams's day has begun with a sick goose, a big sick goose, a 50-pound goose that stands thigh high to Williams's 6'10" frame.
"There's no goose that big," says Keith Van Horn.
"This one is," says Williams. "Everybody else is walking into the animal hospital with these little puppies and kittens, and here comes this black guy holding a giant goose. Man, I wrestled that thing in the door."
Williams slips 30 more pounds of misery onto the vertical-press bar as Van Horn and Kerry Kittles await their turns. The three New Jersey Nets (Williams is actually a would-be Net because he's a free agent) work out several times a week at Gold's Gym in Paramus, N.J., with their personal strength coach, Rich Snedaker. "You know what we're doing right now to our golden goose?" says Williams, as he pushes 300 pounds skyward. "We're killing it."
It's a metaphor that's been used to describe the NBA lockout before, though not generally by a high-profile player like Williams, an All-Star center who hopes to re-up with New Jersey when what he calls "the millionaires-versus-billionaires pissing contest" is over. That may be some time. As of Monday no further collective bargaining talks between the league and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) had been scheduled. Furthermore, NBPA executive director Billy Hunter was accusing the owners of trying to turn players against the union after the league last week lifted the ban on team officials' speaking to players directly about the NBA's latest proposal; such communication had been proscribed since the lockout began on July 1.
Much like a fan, Williams is frustrated and angry at both sides. Most of all, he's embarrassed. "I don't know how you can help but be embarrassed when a fan stops you," says Williams, locking his white Lexus SUV and heading into a Red Lobster for a postworkout lunch. "They're thinking, Get back to work, you rich f——-s. That's what I'd be thinking too." As if on cue, two men recognize Williams as they head out of the parking lot in an old pickup truck.
"Yo, Jay, when you gonna be back?" one asks.
"I'm guessing January," says Williams.
"Damn, not till then?" the fan says.
"Maybe not," answers Williams. "You all take care."