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Johnson: "I didn't say I supported the owners. I think both sides are equally bad. The owners priced out the average fan."
Sisson: "It's getting so you can only afford to watch it on TV. Pretty soon, all the games will be on pay-per-view, and it will be just like the 1950s again. We'll be listening to basketball on the radio."
Bucket: "I heard that!"
Mudflap: "Hey, did you guys hear that Garnett grew another inch?"
Bucket: "I hadn't heard that!"
Johnson: "I heard that. Is it true?"
I informed him that this was indeed true. Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett had now been measured as 7'2". This news clearly intrigued Johnson and Sisson, who simply couldn't help themselves: They began talking about Minnesota's prospects of surviving the departure of free-agent forward Tom Gugliotta. I sensed their anti-NBA resolve thawing and asked how long they planned to picket games. "Probably just the exhibition season," said Johnson, sighing steam. This game was the Timberwolves' home exhibition season.
I understood their indecision. They loved the NBA but were ashamed to act as the enablers of owners and players. I felt the same way. On this night I went inside to watch Minnesota's 96-86 win. "Hey, SI," Mudflap said as he followed me in. "Any way I can get those Jordan videos without buying the magazine?"
"I'm afraid not," I said.
Behind us, Johnson and Sisson were torn between coming in and staying out, giving in and holding out. They turned this way and that, this way and that, each one looking like an oscillating fan. Which is precisely what I had become.