By Johnny Mann

No Dwyane Wade….Check
No Shaquille Oneal… Check
Jason Kapono starting….umm Check
The NBA it’s FAAAAANNTASTIC

On Friday night I was back in D.C. for my second game report to see the Shaqless, Wadeless, NBA champs face off against the Wizards. This time around I’m a little more prepared. I arrived at the media entrance around 5:30 pm and headed to the press room, got my red meal ticket and hung up my jacket all without getting lost. I made my way to the Heat locker room and the first person I saw was Shaq. I didn’t even think he would make the trip. He was dapper in a suit and tie talking to a couple reporters. He looked like he was in great shape (no Kuramo) and was walking along fine. He said he was day-to-day but who really knows. I peeked around the corner and saw Zo getting ready. After hearing Rex Chapmen mention how Mourning was so intense in Charlotte that he puked before every game (not really sure how this shows intensity), I was a bit disappointed to see him simply laying back getting stretched while watching film. As I scoped out the place I noticed the Heat’s game plan for tonight. The board had several important points that the team should focus on; most of which centered on stopping Gilbert from having another 30+ night. Evidently Riley doesn’t love the kids and is not a fan of Arenas’ Score for Schools program.

After a few more moments in the Heat locker room I passed by the court and saw Antoine Walker and Jason Williams shooting around. Not much news there so I head to the Wizards locker room. It’s bit more lively than last time. They got some Jay-Z playing and I see a couple guys working out and getting ready. It’s getting close to 6:30 so I go back and get some grub. Hard Rock Café is still sponsoring. This week’s menu consists of BBQ chicken, baked potato, corn and corn bread. Food was cool. Seating was a bit tight and as I’m getting back to my seat I bumped into Chris Ford who happened to be sitting behind me. I met up with my boy from DC Metro Sports and we headed to the press area to find our seat assignments.

Now I’m still a newbie to all of this so at times I may nudge the boundaries just to see what the media are allowed to do. Tonight I’m trying to get a little closer to the action. I make my way to the scorers table and just kinda lounge a bit during the pre-game warm-ups. As I’m standing behind the officials I see the game ball, so I say, “Hey fellas can I see what all the fuss and lawsuits are about?” They say, “Sure” and throw me the ball. I feel it. It’s kinda soft, no real grip and I could see how it can be slippery when wet but beyond that it doesn’t seem like a big deal. Then one of the officials says that a lot of players have been complaining about cuts from the ball. I’m not buying it so he turns to me and says it’s true. Then he put on his Mr. Wizard cap and starts breaking it down all scientific like. He’s says, “Since the ball is made of microfibers every time you grab it, a very thin layer of your skin sticks to it. It’s not enough to make you bleed but over the course of the game enough layers will peel that your skin will be raw and you will get nicks and cuts.” Interesting yet pretty disgusting when you think about it.

After my scientific lesson and a few failed attempts to position myself to be seen on TV I head back to press row but not before a quick chat with Antonio Daniels. I jokingly ask why he even is bothering with shooting with the new balls rather than practicing with the old ones. He basically says they can’t because the league won’t let them but before he can finish his sentence an overeager event staffer asks me to move it along. Boundary? I may have to revisit that next time.

It’s game time so let’s see how the Heat do with this stop Gilbert plan. First observation of the night, Jason Kapono and Dorrell Wright are starting. Let that marinate for a minute.

Off and running and Caron hits a nice turnaround to set it off.

Arenas with a dunk..

Caron with a dunk..

Antawn Jamison Layup..

I’m starting to see a trend. This is pretty awful.

8-0.

Zo finally stops the bleeding but its 12-2 after another Caron jumper.

Zo with another bucket and I’m pretty sure he traveled about 3 times on the same move.

Doleac and Kapono are on the floor together and it’s no where near garbage time.

Arenas for 3 and the Wizards by 11.

A steal by Arenas, dunk by Deshawn Stevenson.

Fadeaway by Stevenson. I don’t know if the Wizards have missed yet.

Who’s Chris Quinn? Whoever he is he just came in at the point. Time to flip through this Miami Heat media guide. What did White Chocolate do to piss off Riley? He’s getting no burn.

15 Point lead as Caron hits another jumper. He’s already got 17 in the first quarter.

Gilbert with a 3 stretching the lead to 20.

A couple free throws by Daniels end the quarter 40-17. The Wizards are running them out of the building shooting 76 % but the Heat have been here before (against Phoenix the other night to be exact). Chances are they will close the gap as the game goes on.

Second quarter and the Heat switch to a zone.

Arenas tries to come in the lane but gets double teamed and stripped. Looks like they are serious about stopping Agent Zero.

Jarvis Hayes with his second three of the quarter. Wizards up by 25.

Posey enters the game and hits a 3 to cut it to 22.

Another three by Posey.

Posey again from three. He didn’t play at all in the first but he is single handedly bringing them back from beyond the arc.

The Miami zone is shutting down all drives to the basket. Caron gets cut off at the baseline but kicks out to Jamison who nails a three to bring the lead back to 20. As long as they keep hitting jump shots this game won’t be close.

4th three by Posey.

5th three by Posey. 17 points in 10 minutes cutting the lead to 14.

A three by Quinn drops it to 11. It looks like an actual game may breakout at any moment.

Alonzo with a double pump and a foul bringing the lead down to single digits.

Gilbert takes it to the rack and collects a smack in the face along with the bucket. Nothing easy tonight. He’s already got 18 though.

Halftime and the Wizards are up 60-49.

No contortionist tonight instead we got some horrible rappers yelling something. DJ Clue is in the house. Is this bad entertainment his doing?

The 2nd half starts off with a dunk by Zo to cut it to 9.

The Wizards just missed about 4 shots in one possession. Another Posey three. That’s 6. He is on fire and the Heat are within 6.

Damn, another three by Posey at practically half court! It’s a three point ball game.

Arenas has gotta work on them free throws. He’s shooting about 50%.

Haslem can’t get anything going.

6-2 Rookie Chris Quinn from Notre Dame (thank you media guide) is running the offense. He passes to Haslem who finally gets on the scoreboard in the 3rd.

Posey completes a three point play to cut the lead to 3 again.

Jamison three and a foul. 4 point play. I think he gets one of these each game.

Great play by Posey. He drove, drew three defenders and kicked it to Zo for a flush.

Another 3 by Jamison. Both teams are in love with the 3. The Heat are 10 for 20 and the Wizards are 9 for 24. Surprisingly Antoine Walker has only taken 1.

Great block by Jamison. His third of the game.

The Heat zone is working like a well oiled machine but the Wizards are still hitting those jumpers to keep the lead between 7 and 9.

Arenas with a 3. Looks like he is on his way to another 30 point night. He’s got 22 so far.

The Wizards are finally getting some points in the paint again mostly by Jamison.

Wizards break the century mark with a pair of Arenas free throws.

Butler for 2 and that’s a season high 30. The leads back to twelve with three minutes to go and I think the Heat are done. They made a few runs but couldn’t get closer than 3.

A bunch of missed 3s end the Heat’s chances as the Wizards break their 12 game losing streak to Miami and improve to 11-11 on the season winning 106-95. The big 3 of Caron, Arenas, and Jamison did their thing scoring 30, 27, and 22 respectively. Jamison also had 5 blocks.

Immediately after the game we head to the Wizards locker room. I learned my lesson from the last time so I kinda lay back until these guys at least get some draws on. No luck I still got mooned. I see the Reporter’s Swarm, noun (swôrm): A horde of reporters who stand in the middle of the locker room until the best player or hot player of the night gets a certain amount of clothes on and turns around to talk. As soon as he looks up they attack with microphones, cameras and cliches.

I’m starting to understand why we have to interview these guys while dressing. It seems you only have the time from the shower to when they put their earrings in to get your questions answered before everyone jets to the club.  Even so I’m not a big fan of the swarm so I go talk to the other players that are ignored instead. I catch up with Brendan Haywood for a second. He is kinda pissed because they threw away one of his socks before he could get dressed. I ask about him and Zo jawing and he says he just wanted the refs to let them bang and play rather than call a foul on him when Zo throws an elbow.

The Wizards locker room is getting a bit stale so I head to the visitors. It’s practically empty but I see Antoine, Posey, Chris Quinn and GP. Me and Posey talk about his game. I mention how well the zone was working but wondered why they couldn’t make the final push. He says, “We put ourselves in such a big hole that we just ran out of gas towards the end.” After that everyone hit the bus but I did see Big Sam Perkins and GP reconnecting and exchanging numbers.

I head back to the Wizards and the Swarm has now turned its attention to The Book of Caron. David Aldridge makes an appearance. I feel like I’m on NBA Tonight. He asks Caron something about how good of a basketball player Tony Romo was in high school. Then he says if Caron played in the NFL and Romo played in the NBA who would make a better transition.  He says Romo had a great shot and could do a good Steve Kerr imitation. After that exchange I started making my way out the arena to head back to B-More. Once we got to the exit, we see D.C.’s favorite video Girl Angel Luv taking pics with salivating fans. Let’s just say her best assets greeted us at the door.