By Sam Rubenstein

This past Friday night I had a press pass waiting, and I was all good to go to the Miami-NJ game. Then Lang hooked me up with his friend from Converse, which had a luxury box at the game, something to do with Dwyane Wade being in town. I had the option of going into the locker rooms and sitting with the media, or sitting in a luxury box with free everything. Hmmmmmm… I chose the route of BALLLLIIINNNNGGGG!!! Did you not see that word coming?

It’s a long season and there’s plenty of time for the behind the scenes stuff. Besides, it’s Nets-Heat. This is all you need to know: The Nets can’t beat Miami. They’ve lost to them in the playoffs twice in a row. Back to Friday night.

We took the Converse van from Manhattan through the Lincoln Tunnel out to Jerz. An eclectic group of characters came along for the ride. Other than Converse reps who love their boy Mr. Wade, there was one guy from ESPN the Magazine, one guy from Stuff magazine, myself, and our DATES! It was like going to a basketball themed prom.

We got there, and the attendance was not horrible. Very impressive Nets fans. Especially on the night after the Rutgers-Louisville game. I had my notepad out, and I was made fun of to the point that I had to discretely jot things down. I was very disappointed later on to discover how light I am on notes from this game. The box was not a working environment. Now I see why it’s so real and serious on press row.

Vince looked strange without his headband on, and I started my legal apparel watch. The difference in image? Not much. Jason Collins rocked the headband, Vince and Kidd had arm bands, other than that some guys had kneepads but that’s it.

The Nets came out running their offense, where Collins stumbles around and sets picks on each of the other team’s players one after another until someone on the Nets can create a shot off those screens. Vince starts out hot.

Miami dumps the ball into Shaq on every possession. As a defensive presence, Nenad Krstic is a great jump shooting center.

The Nets dancers are the NBA at its absolutely most hypocritical. They want to crack down on guys for being too “street” and make the game family friendly so the kids can enjoy it. The Nets dancers use chairs as props. This is a strip club. I’m not saying I disapprove. I just think it’s funny how the league is cool with this, but the players can’t have their shorts sagging too low or make funny faces at the refs.

Cliff Robinson still has his headband on. Whew!

Marcus Williams comes in, breaks an ankle or two, hits a step back J. The hall of famer ahead of him on the depth chart could never do that.

Musical interlude during timeout, “Show me watchu got purty laaaady…” Jay-Z at a Nets game as you’d expect. The organization was classy enough to play Jim Jones “We Fly High” during the pregame, despite the beef. I was enjoying that in the luxury box, perhaps a little too much.

The Nets are having one of those games where Vince can’t miss, the Heat are ice cold, but for some reason the lead isn’t big enough. Miami is going to come back. I have to say I’m enjoying the Heat this year. They’re the champs so everyone is gunning for them. Miami is full of veterans whose primary goal is not to wear themselves out in the regular season. But they have enough veteran SAAVY that they can play at half speed and win 40 to 50 games. Udonis Haslem takes care of all the hustle plays.

The ESPN editor is sitting in the corner, working hard on his Crackberry. He’s a big 6’10” guy who must have been an ex-player. He’s real stiff though, like a concert pianist. He types into the Crackberry like he’s playing the piano.

On the floor, there’s a moment where Vince is guarding James Posey, but not too hard. Him and Shaq are in the same area, and the two of them are chatting it up like a first baseman and a baserunner. This game does not have playoff intensity. Yet?

The big difference between watching a game on TV and watching it at home is the speed of the game. Normally when I go to an NBA game, I’m amazed at how fast the players fly around. Jason Kidd is actually slower in person. It’s pretty miraculous that he’s still such a great player because he is not explosive at all anymore. He’s even making bad decisions with the ball on fast breaks. This is not JKidd’s finest moment.

Brian McKnight sang the Anthem and he sings at halftime. By the way I brought my girlfriend with me to the game. So I get credit for taking her to a Brian McKnight concert. Yes!

Halftime score is 53-43 Jersey. They had their chance to blow this thing wide open early on, but they didn’t take advantage. Miami has that veteran saavy.

The third quarter begins with a Wade doing a Kobe-esque up and under move for the lay-up, a steal and dish to Antoine Walker for a lay-up, and then since everything comes in threes for #3, he beats the shot clock falling out of bounds. Sitting up in a luxury box that is made up of people that are all here to see him, there is excitement.

Nets Dancers come out dressed in Catholic school girl uniforms with the high socks and the belly exposed. Fergilicious.

Earlier I had been talking to someone in the box who once played for Winston-Salem. I told him Kidd looked slow and he agreed with me. Now I overhear him using my line to someone else.

And then Kidd responds with two straight AND-1s in traffic. He’s a great player, even without jumping or running.

Alonzo Mourning gets booed extra hard by the Nets fans. He’s the villain. Vince has left the game with an injury and is expected to return for the second game in a row. Some people accuse him of doing this to add drama.

Other than Wade, Marcus Williams, Nenad, Haslem, and Dorrell and Antoine Wright, this feels like I’m at the YMCA watching a very talented rec league game.
As soon as I wrote that down, Gary Payton hit the dagger three to make it 94-90.

Payton and Antoine each hit a big three for Miami, but Wade and Haslem combine to win this game for Miami. The two players on their team that really go hard. Wade was dominant, when he wasn’t scoring he was setting up Haslem, and Udonis finished with a career high 28.

Miami wins the game and the Nets lose Richard Jefferson to an injury. Double ouch.
The ride home was one of the best experiences of my life. I wish I could share the details with you, but I was warned by some people in the van that those details have to remain private. Sorry.