The 700 Level's Vegas All Star Weekend Wrap Up (It took a Week to Recover)

The 700 Level's Vegas All Star Weekend Wrap Up (It took a Week to Recover)


My flickr set: NBA All Star Weekend 2007 - Las Vegas

I've written about my adventures in Vegas in multiple smaller posts, so I'll link to them first all in one place for posterity's sake.

Perhaps you've read Bill Simmons or Jason Whitlock's take on the debauchery that took place in Las Vegas less than a 10 days ago.  They seemed to think it was Gangbangerpalooza, a black eye on the NBA.  I don't know, I didn't have that kind of experience.  Mine was all positive.  I'm going to take you on a walk down memory lane here -- or lack of it.

The trip kicked off on what you would have thought to be a bad start, being delayed for 5+ hours in miserably cold Philadelphia on Thursday night, but alas, we were going to Vegas, a little delay shant dampen our spirits.  That's what the Jet Rock Bar in terminal C was made for at PHL.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Jet Rock Bar, they serve some of the largest, coldest, tastiest beers a guy delayed from going anywhere could ever ask for.  We closed down the Jet Rock bar and moved on to some Asian bar that's open all night.  Next thing I knew, it was 4:00am and I'm in Vegas.

We had tickets to every NBA event in Las Vegas last weekend and we made it to a good portion of them.  The two we missed which may or may not have been fun were the Rookie Game and the Legends Brunch.  Missing the rookie game was a calculated decision, no regrets there.  Missing the Legends Brunch on Sunday morning was more a choice made by God and Red Bull.  I'm sorry I missed that one.

Friday: We hit up the celebrity game and the NBA Jam Session.  The celebrity game wasn't anything worth writing about.  It can be described with the image of Bobby Flay crossing up Carrot Top.  Reggie Bush was impressive.

I played some three card poker at Mandalay Bay and my first and perhaps best celeb sighting of the weekend took place here.  After getting TWO straight flushes in about a 30 minute span, I'm up about $1,500 (which lasted all weekend) I see 'Nique strolling toward me by himself in a full 3 piece grey suit.  I'm in the middle of a hand, look up and make eye contact with Mr. Wilkins, give the head nod and he did the same in return and even mouthed a "how you doin."  He was actually friendly.  It was cool.

The Jam Session at Mandalay was actually pretty fun, we played some of the hoops challenges.  Saw Jason Kidd, John Starks, and BJ Armstrong.  Fun Mike's form was a little rusty.

We got hooked up with tickets to Elton John's Red Piano concert at Caesar's Coliseum.  Say what you will, but Elton rocked and this is where we first learned that all of the events we had tickets to all weekend would be open bar.  Dangerous.  Interesting note: the Elton John concert was the only place in the entire city of Las Vegas where you couldn't find any black people.  True story.

Following the Elton show, we were fairly banged up and decided to hang out in the war zone: The Strip.  We didn't realize the danger we were in until we read Simmons and Whitlock days later.  Although we were literaly within stones throw from the shooting outside Caesar's Friday night.

Hanging at some outside bar in front of Caesar's on the strip was AWESOME.  A constant flow of interesting people coming by, a good buzz from the open bar at Elton, and Bill Walton strolls by bombed.

Saturday: we were back at it around 9:30 on Saturday morning to head back to Mandalay (home base was Monte Carlo) with tickets to watch the All Star's practice.  This was pretty fun actually, Gilbert and Shaq made this worth all our while.  See: Shaq vs. LeBron Dance Off.  Perhaps my favorite picture of the weekend is LeBron mid-dunk.

I was trying to ask Tim Legler about his Eagle's cheerleader girlfriend but he kept ignoring me.

 

Everything starts earlier in Vegas and the Saturday night festivities -- Skills, 3 point, Dunk contests -- started at like 4, so we headed over to the Thomas and Mack for that.  Poor Manute Bol couldn't even fit in his seat.

I was impressed by Nate Robinson and Dwight Howard, not so much with Gerald Green.  This turned out to be a fun event.  The dunk contest definitely had some flair to it.  I was pulling for Gilbert in the 3 point shoot out, but he wasn't feeling it.

Following the dunk contest we headed over to the Palms for the NBA/TNT at Rain party where we ran in to Mike Miller and Nate Robinson.  Nate doesn't like people from Philadelphia which is shocking.  Despite having a really laid back vibe to it, we had a blast at this party.  I got to chat with David Aldridge and saw The Tark.  This is where the open bar and Red Bull really started to go in full effect.  We spent a couple hours at this party.  A little inside, a little by the pool, another Red Bull/vodka and we were rockin.  The Goo Goo Dolls played which was cool.  The events that took place between the time we left Rain and Sunday morning are the only portions of the weekend I will not tell you about.

Sunday: Fun Mike could barely move and I wasn't fairing much better.  We didn't make it to the NBA Legends Brunch unfortunately.  The guy I sat next to at the game on Sunday night said this was the best event of the weekend.  All the old timers are nice and available and will talk to anyone.  This is Vegas, you can't win 'em all.

The one thing every single person who was in Vegas experienced was the gridlock.  Getting anywhere was a mess.  Taxi lines were not fun.  On Sunday, while waiting in a Taxi line to the game, a limo pulled up and gave us a ride to the T&M Center for $10 bucks.

The seats I had were absolutely sick, next to Michelle Wie and about 20 feet from Terrell Owens.  I'm not going to lie and say the game was the most exciting aspect of the game because it wasn't.  People watching, being so close to Christina, The HOF, Wayne Newton, it was an experience.

The highlight on the court was clearly the show Gilbert Arenas put on during one of the timeouts with the flying Elvi.

I hit up the NBA post game party at Tao at the Venetian.  A pretty posh spot, ducked out pretty quickly to get some final gambling in and saw Rodman walk by with a couple of porn star looking chics.  That's about it.

Vegas.  Sick.  I had an absolute blast and I think I had some good material on The 700 Level for you people.  As far as entertainment value, I'd put my Walton, Shaq/Lebron, and Gilbert Trampoline up against anything ESPN or any big name site showed you.  Little people can have fun too, just ask Nate.

Feel free to ask me questions in the comments, I'm sure I forgot lots of fun details.  What do you want to know about Vegas?  Also check out my full flickr set.

Record-breaking crowds flood the Parkway for NFL Draft Experience in Philly

Record-breaking crowds flood the Parkway for NFL Draft Experience in Philly

Who needs to the Pope when you have Ginger Jesus?

The NFL Draft Experience joined a long list of wildly popular events in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and all along the Ben Franklin Parkway.

The NFL announced today that nearly 100,000 fans enjoyed the experience, the most-ever for a draft-related event, on day 1 of the draft alone.

Fans flooded into the Experience with people from all across the country in town to support their respective teams. Eagles fans clearly dominated the crowd, however, as you couldn't go a few minutes without hearing an E-A-G-L-E-S chant. 

ESPN also showed some love all night long. SportsCenter's Scott Van Pelt called the story of the night in Philadelphia the city of Philly itself. Adam Schefter called it the "wildest, most raucous crowd in draft history." Jon Gruden called Philly "one of the greatest football towns on the planet."

Aside from not being totally in love with their first pick Derek Barnett upon first blush, Philly fans showed off wonderfully. Even the booing of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell came off as cute.

The Draft Experience is open again on Friday from noon until 11:00 pm and on Saturday from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm. It's free for all fans.

Try the games, avoid the cheesesteaks. And bring some sunscreen (ugh).

By the numbers: Jeremy Hellickson legitimately among NL's best the last year

By the numbers: Jeremy Hellickson legitimately among NL's best the last year

Unless you're a die-hard Phillies fan, you might not grasp just how good Jeremy Hellickson has been since the start of 2016.

Hellickson, who allowed one run in six innings Thursday to improve to 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA this season, hasn't just been solid — he's legitimately been one of the best pitchers in the National League.

Some stats to back it up:

• Hellickson has a 1.11 WHIP the last two seasons. That's a better mark than Noah Syndergaard, Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels, David Price, Dallas Keuchel, Jose Quintana and Chris Archer have.

• Over the last calendar year, Hellickson's 3.29 ERA ranks ninth-best in the NL. Over that span he has a lower ERA than some really good pitchers like Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, Carlos Martinez, Hamels, Quintana and Rick Porcello. It's almost identical to Chris Sale's 3.26 ERA over that span.

• Hellickson over the last calendar year has walked 2.03 batters per nine innings. That's fifth-best in the NL behind only Mike Leake, Bartolo Colon, Madison Bumgarner and Syndergaard. (Jerad Eickhoff is a spot below Hellickson at 2.05 and then comes Max Scherzer at 2.08).

• How has Hellickson been so effective with so low a strikeout rate? He's thrown exactly 250 pitches since 2016 on the low-outside corner and low-inside corner. That's fifth-most in the majors, behind only Jon Lester, Zach Davies, Keuchel and Kyle Hendricks. Paint.

This stat refers to zones 17 and 19 in the image below.

Of course, Hellickson has done this with an extremely low strikeout rate. He's never been a big strikeout guy, but he did say Thursday he's been a bit surprised to have this much success in 2017 with his lowest career K rate. 

Hellickson has a very low batting average on balls in play which will regress closer to his career average, but it's not as if luck is the sole factor here. As mentioned above, he's hit spots as well as almost anyone in the majors. 

And the changeup, his elite pitch, gets some swings and misses but more often results in weak contact and quick outs. The worm will turn at some point, but Hellickson shouldn't be expected to fall off a cliff and revert back into a pitcher with a high-4.00s ERA.

The Phillies did well with this acquisition two offseasons ago and may have been fortunate things with Hellickson worked out the way they did. He has even more trade value now than he did a year ago.