By Chris Sheridan
From Meadowlands to MSG
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. and NEW YORK -- It's not all that often someone can cram a Dennis Rodman sighting and a Carl Edwards encounter into the same night, especially when the two men were in different states at the same time watching two different NBA games.
Insider managed it, however, on a warm Wednesday night in the New York metropolitan area.
All it took was a quick decision to bail out on the Nets-Pistons game at halftime and a hasty drive through the Lincoln Tunnel to Madison Square Garden, where the Bulls-Knicks game beckoned. Turned out to be the right choice, too, as Detroit finished off New Jersey in a lackluster second half that was monitored on TV while a far more riveting game -- even if the caliber of competition wasn't as strong -- unfolded just 8 miles away.
The evening began before Lawrence Frank arrived at the Meadowlands and ended long after Larry Brown had departed Madison Square Garden.
A look at some of the snapshots from along the way:
5 p.m. Meadowlands press parking lot is all but empty, and the parking lot authorities do not yet have their game faces on. I smile at them and they smile back. You don't get smile exchanges around here very often, doesn't matter if it's New York or New Jersey.
5:45 p.m. Inside the building, coach Frank arrives in his Honda Pilot and pulls into what appears to be a supersecret parking space that Jason Kidd would undoubtedly claim if he knew how prime it was. Frank says hello as he removes his tote bag and dress suit from his trunk, reminding me of how Jeff Van Gundy once drove a Honda when he was a young head coach in his 30s back in the late 90s with the Knicks. Jeff's Honda, by the way, was destroyed by a jet blast from the Knicks' team plane.
6:15 p.m. 'Sheed is making calls from his cell phone in the visiting locker room as Ben Wallace looks back on last season and ahead to this Friday when Larry Brown will return to the Palace for the first time since his divorce from the Pistons. (For more on what Ben said, check back Friday.)
6:40 p.m. Stop by the Nets' locker room, where Kidd is surprised to hear that Vin Baker, his teammate on the 2000 U.S. Olympic team, has opened a restaurant in Connecticut. Told that Baker is still being paid by the Rockets and Celtics, Kidd replies "only in the NBA" with a shake of his head.
7 p.m. Dinner in the press room, where Nets PR executive Aaron Harris informs me it's NASCAR night. The celebrities on hand include drivers Rusty Wallace, Jeremy Mayfield, Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards.
7:15 p.m. Open an e-mail from a former colleague and learn that Edwards, just a couple hours earlier, had been shooting 3-pointers in the enclosed basketball court on the roof of the building that houses the Associated Press. Folks back in the old newsroom said Edwards, from Missouri, could shoot it like someone from Indiana.
7:50 p.m. The Nets' dance team comes out for its first routine, and it's the same number -- complete with the same costumes -- that the Knicks' dancers did for years and years before their dance team coordinator, Petra Pope, defected across the river late last season.
8 p.m: Darko Milicic gets in, and Vince Carter immediately begins driving around and over him for dunks. I remark how it appears Darko loaded up on hair gel prior to the game, and a married female colleague comments that Darko is somewhat attractive. (I made a mental note that my colleague's husband's name must be Frank N. Stein.)
8:30 p.m. Nets owner Bruce Ratner walks by, smiling. I'd smile like that, too, if I had his money.
8:37 p.m. Out the door at the Meadowlands.
8:57 p.m. In the door at the Garden. (Yes, Insider sometimes drive like Harvey Keitel's character in "Pulp Fiction.")
9:02 p.m. Walk past the tunnel where Isiah Thomas stands during games, and who is there speaking to him? None other than his old teammate, Rodman, whose blue jeans contain just about every color in the rainbow.
9:50 p.m. Eric Piatkowski checks in for the first time in the game, and on his first touch his pass is intercepted by Antonio Davis for a breakaway. Davis makes two foul shots to complete a 13-0 run to open the quarter.
9:52 p.m. Crawford is isolated on Piatkowski and loses him with a crossover.
9:53 p.m. Crawford is isolated on Piatkowski and loses him with a crossover.
9:55 p.m. Stephon is isolated on Piatkowski, dribbles inside and kicks out to Crawford for an open 3. Ballgame.
10:25 p.m. Piatkowski emerges from the back of the locker room and explains he doesn't usually defend speedy guards. He's good humored about it.
11:30 p.m. Phone rings. The folks from NASCAR are in town for their annual banquet, and a gearhead writer calls, screaming, to ask what's taking me so long. Time to file this bad boy and head off with the racing folks. It's like Mayberry R.F.D. meets the Big Apple when these people come to town each year. Hopefully they'll enjoy hearing a quick tale about a zip through the Lincoln Tunnel that would have made Dale Jr. proud.
Chris Sheridan, a national NBA reporter for the past decade, covers the league for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.
Nets guard Vince Carter goes in for two of his 27 points with Pistons center Ben Wallace in pursuit. The Pistons turned in a 93-83 win, led by Rip Hamilton's 30 points.
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Quote of the Night
-- Andrew Ayres
Chauncey Billups, Pistons -- With each passing day, it gets more surreal that this man has never played in an All-Star game. If it doesn't happen this year, Patrick Fitzgerald needs to launch an investigation.
Billups is playing the best basketball of his career, popping in his usual 17.3 points per game while also handing out an uncharacteristic 8.2 assists per night. If he can keep distributing the ball so well while finding spots to get his own offense, the surprisingly potent Pistons offensive attack should continue to flourish.
That, in turn, could get Billups the recognition that mysteriously has eluded him so far. It helps his case that no Piston other than Ben Wallace has received any individual accolades, despite the team's undeniable success over the past four seasons. Voters may feel the distinction is long overdue.
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Then we quickly realized that he might charge into the stands and inexplicably beat the hell out of one of us. So Ron turns around, searches the faces to see who yelled at him, finally finds the guy . . . and gives him a big wink. High comedy. I like Ron Artest. He's my favorite NBA player who was ever suspended for a season for attacking a fan.
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