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.

Best of MLB: Mets win in 10th on Yoenis Cespedes' walk-off HR

Best of MLB: Mets win in 10th on Yoenis Cespedes' walk-off HR

NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes homered with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the New York Mets a 2-1 victory over the Miami Marlins in the first game of a pivotal series between National League playoff contenders Monday night.

Jose Reyes dashed home to score the tying run in the eighth on a dangerous collision at the plate, and the Mets pulled even with Miami for second place in the NL East. With its seventh victory in nine games, New York remained 2 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the league's second wild card.

It was an exhilarating win for the Mets, who appeared to be at a major disadvantage on the mound in the opener of a four-game set. New York was shut out for six innings by Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, but Mets starter Rafael Montero also put up zeros in his first major league start since April 2015 (see full recap).

Martinez's 13 K's, throwing error give Cards win
MILWAUKEE -- Stephen Piscotty scored on a throwing error in the ninth inning after Carlos Martinez struck out a career-high 13, leading the St. Louis Cardinals over the Milwaukee Brewers 6-5 on Monday night.

With two on and nobody out in the ninth, Yadier Molina dropped down a bunt. Reliever Tyler Thornburg (5-5) threw to third base for a force out, but Jonathan Villar's throw to first was wild, allowing Piscotty to score.

After Martinez held Milwaukee to one run over six innings, the Brewers scored four runs in the seventh to take a 5-3 lead. St. Louis tied it in the eighth on a two-run homer by Randal Grichuk off Corey Knebel.

Seung Hwan Oh pitched a perfect ninth for his 14th save. Miguel Socolovich (1-0) pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings to pick up his first win.

Jedd Gyorko and Kolten Wong each hit solo home runs for the Cardinals (see full recap).

Royals keep rolling, take down Yankees
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Dillon Gee kept the Royals' momentum going with six sharp innings, Alcides Escobar hit a three-run homer and Kansas City beat the New York Yankees 8-5 on Monday night to open their three-game set.

Gee (6-7) allowed only four hits and a run in the latest impressive start by the Royals' staff, helping the reigning World Series champions win for the 18th time in 22 games.

Lorenzo Cain, Kendrys Morales and Alex Gordon drove in runs off Michael Pineda (6-11) during a five-hit salvo in the first inning. Pineda then retired 15 straight before getting into a two-on, no-outs jam in the seventh that led to Escobar's homer off reliever Blake Parker.

Starlin Castro drove in two runs for the Yankees, the second in a four-run eighth inning that forced Kansas City manager Ned Yost to summon fill-in closer Kelvin Herrera (see full recap).

Jake Thompson tweaks delivery, offers ray of light on a dark night for Phillies

Jake Thompson tweaks delivery, offers ray of light on a dark night for Phillies

BOX SCORE

On the surface, this was not a very positive night at the ballpark for the Phillies. They had just four hits and lost, 4-0, to the Washington Nationals in front of the smallest crowd of the season – 16,056, announced – at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
 
But lest we forget, this is a rebuilding season and in a rebuilding season the final score isn’t always paramount. So on an otherwise dark Monday night there was a ray of light for the Phillies.
 
Jake Thompson had the kind of start those who traded for him a year ago and those who watched him pitch this season in Triple A said he was capable of having.
 
“It was great to see,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “That’s just what he needed. He needed a real positive outing. I think this will do wonders for him down the road.”
 
Thompson held the NL East-leading Nationals to two runs over seven innings, his longest of five outings in the majors.
 
“He looked like the pitcher that was advertised,” Mackanin said.
 
Thompson’s first four outings in the majors were poor. He was tagged for 22 hits and 21 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. He walked 13 and struck out 13. Those results were starkly different than his last 11 starts in Triple A. He went 8-0 in those 11 starts and recorded a 1.21 ERA while allowing just 10 earned runs in 74 1/3 innings. He gave up just 52 hits and 18 walks over that span while striking out 42.
 
After watching Thompson for four starts, pitching coach Bob McClure decided to suggest some delivery changes to the 22-year-old right-hander.
 
Players are often receptive to making adjustments when they are struggling. Thompson incorporated the changes McClure suggested and found success Monday night.
 
“We just tried to simplify his delivery so he could make better quality pitches,” McClure said.
 
In his old delivery, Thompson started off facing home plate. He pulled his arms over his head, turned and lifted his front leg before delivering the ball. McClure eliminated many of the moving parts. No more lifting the arms above the head. No more body turn. Thompson started his delivery with his body already turned, like a modified stretch. He simply lifted his leg, let his body go down the slope and fired. The new delivery slowed everything down for him. He looked poised, especially after the first couple of innings, and started attacking hitters with first-pitch strikes like a confident pitcher does.
 
Considering he only worked on the new delivery in two short bullpen sessions Saturday and Sunday in New York, Thompson was a pretty quick study.
 
“It was huge,” he said of the new delivery. “Just on the physical side of things, I’m in a better position to make pitches. I took away some moving parts to make it easier on myself.”
 
Thompson allowed seven hits, walked one and struck out three. All three strikeouts came in his final inning of work. He struck out leadoff man Trea Turner with two men on base with a slider to end the inning.
 
That’s another adjustment McClure made. He had Thompson stop throwing his curveball and focus on his fastball, slider, cutter and changeup.
 
Both of the runs that Thompson allowed came in the first inning on a solo homer by Jayson Werth and an RBI single by Anthony Rendon. After that, Thompson recorded six straight shutout innings. His teammates didn’t support him offensively. Washington right-hander Tanner Roark pitched seven shutout innings. He is 3-0 and has allowed just two runs in 28 innings in four starts against the Phils this season.
 
Thompson needed a start like this for a couple of reasons. First, if he had been pounded again, Phillies officials might have had to consider taking him out of the rotation just so his confidence didn’t get ruined.
 
And second, with Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin out with injuries, the team needed to know something was going right for one of the young pitchers being groomed for the future. Vince Velasquez, another young arm, had three poor outings before pitching well in New York on Sunday.
 
“This will help his confidence a lot,” McClure said.
 
McClure then offered a little glimpse into Thompson’s competitive character.
 
“He seemed pissed that he wasn't pitching well,” McClure said. “But he wasn't deflated. We felt like we should keep starting him because he didn't seem beaten. He seems like a tough kid mentally. We felt like once he started making better quality pitches, he'd get better results.”
 
It happened Monday, a ray of light on an otherwise dark night.

Instant Replay: Nationals 4, Phillies 0

Instant Replay: Nationals 4, Phillies 0

BOX SCORE

The Phillies were beaten, 4-0, by the Washington Nationals on Monday night, but wins and losses don’t matter as much as development in a rebuilding season, so there was a bright spot: Rookie right-hander Jake Thompson finally broke through with a good start in holding the Nats to two runs over seven innings.
 
The Phillies’ offense was not good. It produced just four hits on the night.
 
Washington got all the offense it needed when Jayson Werth, the second batter of the game, homered off Thompson in the first inning.

The Nats lead the NL East at 76-55. The Phils are 60-71.
 
The crowd of 16,056 was the smallest of the season at Citizens Bank Park.
 
Starting pitching report
Thompson had struggled in four starts — 9.78 ERA — since arriving from Triple A and there were questions whether he’d even make this start. But he put together a nice outing. After giving up two runs in the first inning, he pitched six straight scoreless innings, finishing his outing with three strikeouts, the last of which came on his 111th pitch when he froze Trea Turner with a breaking ball with two men on base. Thompson allowed seven hits — four in the first three innings — and walked one.
 
Washington right-hander Tanner Roark pitched seven shutout innings to improve to 14-7. He held the Phils to four hits and a walk and struck out five.

Roark is 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA (two earned runs in 28 innings) in four starts against the Phillies this season. The Nats are 15-4 in his last 19 starts.

Bullpen report
Frank Herrmann gave up two runs in the ninth.
 
At the plate
Odubel Herrera had two of the Phillies’ four hits.
 
Werth’s homer in the top of the first was his 19th. Anthony Rendon drove in a run with a two-out single in that inning. Clint Robinson and Turner had RBI singles in the ninth to push the Nats’ lead to 4-0.
 
ICYMI
Herrera is staying in center field for the remainder of the season, Pete Mackanin said (see story).
 
Up next
The series continues on Tuesday night. Jerad Eickhoff (9-12, 3.87) pitches against Washington right-hander Max Scherzer (14-7, 2.92).