(3:30 in the morning.  Air Canada Centre.  Arena is empty.  Lights are off.)

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Andrea Bargnani: Hay-lo?  Hay-lo?  Ish anybody here?

Voice: (booming over P.A.) Hello, Andrea.

Bargnani: Who…who ish dere?

Voice: It is I.  Colangelo.

Owner’s box lights up.  Bryan Colangelo, arms crossed, stands motionless.

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Bargnani: (rubbing eyes) Mishter Colan-yelo, ish very early of this morning, and I am so very tired.  Can you explain please why you have called Bargnani to be here?

Bryan Colangelo: SILENCE!  From here on in, young Andrea, I will be asking the questions.  Now, you are probably wondering why I called you here this early.

Bargnani: Ish what I just axe you, no?

Colangelo: I KNOW what you asked.  Andrea, I am a man of certain…standing in this National Basketball Association.  And do you how I have earned this standing?

Bargnani: (deep yawn)

Colangelo: I have earned this standing by insisting on perfection.  By not making mistakes.  When Colangelo makes a move, it is the right move.  Always.

Bargnani: …so very sleepy…

Colangelo: Which is why you have become a, shall we say, cause for concern.  You see, Andrea, you were to be my greatest achievement.  Lesser GMs would have shied away from using a number one overall pick on a skinny, raw Italian with limited international experience.  But when Colangelo chose you, there was very little second guessing.  Even when…

Bargnani: (lies down on floor)

Colangelo: …Brandon Roy won Rookie of the Year, they were still saying, “Andrea is a long-term project” and “he will be a very special player” and “Dirk Nowitzki”.  But now, those same people are starting to doubt me.  Starting to question me.  And I cannot have that.  Do you know why?

Bargnani:

Colangelo: Andrea?

Bargnani is fast asleep at center court.

Colangelo: TRIANO!  Wake him up!

Raptors’ Assistant Coach Jay Triano runs to center court with a bucket of water, which he pours on Bargnani’s head.

Bargnani: (suddenly awake) Vai in culoTesta di merda

Colangelo: Lift him up!

Triano helps Bargnani to his feet.

Bargnani: I wash having the most wonderful of dreams…

Colangelo: (deep breath) I should be angry with you for falling asleep.  But I’m not.   And do you know why I am not?  Because I am partly to blame.

Bargnani: I was the captain of a spaceship…

Colangelo: You see, when I chose you with that first pick, I in turn placed certain expectations upon your shoulders.  Certain pressures.  Pressures which have weighed you down.

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Bargnani:

Colangelo: And since I am partly responsible for trapping you under these expectations, the least I can do is teach you how to…escape from them.  Yes, my young magician, to truly become Un Mago, you must learn the art of “the escape”.

Bargnani: Excuse?

Colangelo: ENGLISH! The bag!

Bargnani: Huh…?

Bargnani hears the sound of rapid footsteps behind him.  Seconds later, he finds himself engulfed in complete darkness, trapped in a giant bag.

Bargnani: Ach!  What hash happened?  Bargnani, he ish claush-traphobic!

Colangelo: Then free yourself, Andrea!

Bargnani flails his giant limbs spastically, but his movement is restricted inside the bag’s narrow dimensions.  He claws and tears at the sides for minutes.

Bargnani: Help!  Aiuto!

Colangelo: Fight, Andrea!  Help yourself!

Bargnani struggles for several minutes, until finally his arm bursts out the bag’s side.  A few seconds later, the rest of his long frame emerges. He collapses on the floor exhausted.

Bargnani: I did it, Mishter Colan-yelo. (wheezes)  I hash escaped!

Colangelo: Yes, yes you did, Andrea.  But I’m afraid “Escape The Wet Paper Bag” was just phase one of your trials here today. For you see…huh?

Bargnani is fast asleep at center court.

Colangelo: Son of a…LOWER THE CAGE!

Bargnani is awoken by a sudden loud bang.  He is surrounded by a large metal cage, approximately fifteen feet by fifteen feet wide, and ten feet high.  At one end of the cage is attached a backboard and net.  At the opposite end stands Raptors’ Assistant Coach Alex English, on a raised platform, with a basketball.  At the side of the cage is a door, secured by a giant chain and padlock.

Colangelo: Your next task requires you to escape from this cage.  To do so, you will need a key.  The key is located inside the basketball Mr. English is holding.  To get the ball, you simply need to grab a rebound.

Bargnani: But there ish no one in here with me.  It will be very easy for Bargnani.

Colangelo: Not so fast.  LOWER THE MINI-BALLERS! 

A platform descends from the ceiling, carrying twelve small children, ranging from ages six to eight.  The children bounce down from the platform and immediately surround Bargnani, laughing and shrieking.

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Colangelo: (to English) Shoot the ball!

English tosses the ball off the back of the rim.  It bounces high in the air.  Bargnani reaches to grab it, but is successfully boxed out by a pair of six-year-old twin girls.

Bargnani: Ugh! Little mon-shters!

The girls toss the ball back to English, who throws it off the rim again.  Bargnani spins off the two girls, but is quickly scaled by a group of children.  One sits on his shoulders and covers his eyes, while another launches off his face to grab the ball in mid-air.

Bargnani: Nyaah!  I cannot see!

Colangelo: Fight them, Andrea!  Fight them or be trapped in the cage forever!

Bargnani: There ish so many little ones!

Colangelo: (sighs)  Triano!  Bring out the extra…motivation.

Triano stands outside the cage.  He holds aloft an XBox 360, with “BARGNANI’S - DON’T YOU TOUCH!” written in black marker across the top.

Colangelo: NOW!

Triano smashes the XBox against the floor.  It shatters into little pieces.

Bargnani: (horrified) Vaf…fan…CULO!

Enraged, Bargnani picks up a child and tosses him out of the cage.  He knocks the twin girls heads together, and shrugs another young boy off of his leg.

Colangelo: ENGLISH!  Shoot it now!

English launches the ball off the back of the rim.  With fierce determination, Bargnani steps up on a boy’s head, and bounces from child to child like a frog on lily pads.  He launches himself off the last one, and grabs the rebound.  He lands, elbows swinging, with the ball tightly gripped between his hands.

Bargnani: CHUUUUUUUUURRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!

Wide-eyed and breathing deeply, Bargnani surveys the cage, which is littered with children hobbled over in pain.  He tears open the basketball, removes a small key, unlocks the padlock and exits the cage door.

Colangelo: (clapping)  Excellent, excellent!

Bargnani kneels over the remains of his XBox, and shakes his head in disbelief.

Bargnani: Oh, Guitar Hero.  I had only three more songs to finish all of you on esperto.

Colangelo: Drastic times, young Andrea.  Drastic times.  But you did well.  And you only have one more task to complete.

Bargnani: (softly weeping)

Colangelo: Andrea?  Don’t you even want to know what it is?

Bargnani: (shakes head)

Colangelo: Oh, but I think you do.  Turn around.

Bargnani turns to see the base of a large marble column.  It stands eleven feet high.  Balanced on top is a new XBox 360, with a flawless decal of the Italian flag.

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Bargnani: Gloria a dio!  Ish…ish beautiful!

Colangelo: Yes, you like it, don’t you?  It is a gift from Prime Minister Prodi.  Now all you have to do is jump up and take it.

Bargnani lumbers up to his feet, and makes his way towards the column.  Suddenly, Triano and English dart in front of it.  Each holds a giant, man-sized feather, which they slowly wave back and forth in front of the XBox. 

Bargnani: Wha…?  Another trick?

Colangelo: No trick, Andrea.  Simply fight past the blockade and claim what is yours! 

Bargnani, teeth clenched, races up and launches himself at the XBox.  His hands hit nothing but feather.  He falls back to the ground.

Colangelo: Again!  Back on your feet!

Bargnani gets up again, and rushes back towards the column, but he is again blocked at the last second.  He lands hard on his back.

Bargnani: Unnnh! 

Soft voice: Andrea!

Bargnani:

Soft voice: An-drayyyyyyyy-yaaaaaaa!

Bargnani: Who…who ish there?

Soft voice: It is I… 

(ghostly image appears in front of Bargnani’s eyes)

…Vincenzo Esposito!

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Bargnani: Esposito?  Mio compatrioto!  Are you here to help Bargnani grab his XBox?

Esposito: No, Andrea.  I am here to warn you.  

Bargnani: Warn me?

Esposito: Yes.  I am your cautionary tale.  You see, you were the Raptors first overall draft pick.  But I was the first player the team ever signed.  And do you know where I am today?

Bargnani: Where?

Esposito: Who knows?  No one knows!  Not even me!  This league is not kind to we italiano, Andrea.  And until you came along, it had written us off for dead.  But you, you are our best and only hope.  You must succeed.  For if you do not, the league will close its doors to our beautiful country…forever!

Bargnani: (gulps) So much pressure….

Esposito: But you can do it.  Get up, Andrea.  Get up and grab the XBox…per Italia!

Bargnani: NnnnnnnnnNNNNNNAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!

Bargnani rises to his feet and charges towards the column.  He lets out a deep yell as he soars through the air.  A feather lightly brushes up against his face, causing a deep gash.  Yet he reaches out and grabs the XBox with the tip of his fingers, and lands firmly on his feet.  With lightning quick speed, he then headbutts Triano and sweeps English’s leg.  Both men fall to the ground.

Bargnani: Sono…Bargnani!

Colangelo: (cackling maniacally) Well done, Andrea!  Well done!

Bargnani: (breathing heavily) I did it.

Colangelo: Yes, you did.  And in so doing, you learned to escape the shackles of boyhood, and became a man.  The man I knew you would become when I drafted you.  The man I…OWWWWWW!  SON OF A BITCH!  Did you…did you just throwyour XBox at me!?!

Bargnani: Si!  Bargnani hash no need for games anymore.  Games are for boys!  And today, I am a man.  Un uono.  An animal! 

Colangelo: Gahhh!  Cut right through my lip… 

Bargnani: I feel…excited! I feel…my passion! I go to find…MOP GIRL!

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Bargnani runs out of arena on all fours, howling.

Colangelo: Aw, would you look at that! Blood all over my favourite suit…ESPOSITO!

A black curtain in the corner of the box is pulled back to reveal Vincenzo Esposito, cowering on the ground next to a film projector.

Esposito: Y-yes, Mister Colangelo?

Colangelo: Go get me a towel.

Esposito: Y-yes, sir.  Do, do you mind if I go to the washroom while I…

Colangelo: NOW!

Esposito: Y-yes sir!

Esposito runs out of box.

Colangelo: Fuckin’ Italians.

Dabs blood on his lip, sits down on couch.