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 NBA: Bulls hand Spurs first road loss of season

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USA Today Images

Best of NBA: Bulls hand Spurs first road loss of season

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 20 points, and the Chicago Bulls handed San Antonio its first road loss after a 13-0 start, hanging on to beat the Spurs 95-91 on Thursday night.

San Antonio fell one win shy of matching the NBA's best road start set by the Golden State Warriors last season. The Spurs cut an 18-point deficit midway through the third quarter to four in the closing minutes, only to come up short.

Kawhi Leonard scored 24 for San Antonio. Patty Mills added 16 points, hitting 4 of 6 3-pointers. Former Bull Pau Gasol had 13 points and 10 rebounds in his first game in Chicago since signing with San Antonio in the summer, but the Spurs lost a road game for the first time since Oklahoma City knocked them out in the Western Conference semifinals last season.

Jimmy Butler scored all of his 13 points for Chicago in the second half. Rajon Rondo added 12 points, nine assists and 10 rebounds, and Chicago picked up the win after dropping three in a row and six of nine.

The Spurs hadn't dropped a regular-season road game since Denver beat them on April 8 (see full recap).

Scoreboard malfunction, quiet crowd don’t stop Wizards’ rally
WASHINGTON -- Overcoming a sluggish start in front of a sparse, silent crowd and with a malfunctioning scoreboard, the Washington Wizards came back to beat the Nuggets 92-85 on Thursday night, thanks mainly to Bradley Beal's 26 points and Denver's season-high 29 turnovers.

John Wall scored only 15 points one game after a career-best 52, but nine came in the fourth quarter for Washington, which trailed by as many as 14 in the first half.

With starting point guard Emmanuel Mudiay inactive because of what the team said was a sprained right ankle, the Nuggets went 5 1/2 minutes without a point in the fourth quarter.

In that final period, they had 10 of their turnovers and shot 1 for 14 on 3-pointers -- including 0 for 4 in one last-minute possession (see full recap).

Gasol, clutch free throws lift Grizzlies over
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol scored 36 points and Toney Douglas made two free throws with less than a second left to give the Memphis Grizzlies an 88-86 comeback victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

Douglas finished with 11 points, scoring the game's final six points to seal Memphis' fifth straight victory.

Gasol was 13 of 24 from the field, including 4 of 6 from outside the arc. But Douglas, signed by Memphis this week because of injuries, took over down the stretch. The guard scored on a 19-footer with 34 seconds left, then converted two pairs of free throws in the last 20 seconds.

CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 24 points, and Damian Lillard had 19 on 6-of-18 shooting. Evan Turner had 15 points and 10 rebounds (see full recap).

Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

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USA Today Images

Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

BOX SCORE

NEW ORLEANS -- Joel Embiid shot just 5 for 15 from the field and the Sixers … wait … the Sixers won. 

Surprising? Actually, that’s just how the Sixers envision finding success.

It’s not about Embiid having a relatively quiet night on offense with 14 points, especially going 0 for 5 from three. It’s about other players getting involved and taking the burden off the rookie. Embiid has proved he can do a lot of things, but carrying a team each night in his first season isn’t what the Sixers have in mind. 

“I think that’s when we’re at our best,” Nik Stauskas said after the Sixers beat the Pelicans 99-88 (see Instant Replay). “Obviously there are a few guys in the NBA like a LeBron (James), KD (Kevin Durant) or Steph (Curry) that can single-handedly win a game throughout the entire season. But most of the teams are going to rely on bench players to step up and make shots and make plays. I think that’s when we’re most effective.”

Embiid entered Thursday night averaging 24.3 points and shooting 48.9 percent in Sixers wins (three games played). His 14 points against the Pelicans were his fewest in a victory this season. He also grabbed seven boards with four blocks and three steals. Embiid was a game-high plus-27, which Brett Brown called "massive."

Instead of being powered offensively by their centerpiece, the Sixers received solid efforts from the starters and reserves. Ersan Ilyasova scored 23 points (along with eight rebounds) for the second straight game. Sergio Rodriguez chipped in 16 points and eight assists. Off the bench,  Stauskas hit three treys en route to 14 points while Dario Saric scored 10 points with five rebounds as the team snapped an overall eight-game losing skid and a 23-game road losing streak. 

Embiid’s teammates attribute their success to the fact he is such a focal point of the opponents’ defense. In comparison to the beginning of the season when Embiid was getting stifled by double-teams, he has been learning how to pass out of them. Embiid expects to see two defenders every game and has been making adjustments to create opportunities for others to shoot rather than committing turnovers. 

“We’re not standing around a lot and just focusing on what Jo can do,” Robert Covington said. “Jo is making great moves to find guys that are open. He’s willing to pass. We’re starting to build the chemistry that everyone’s been looking for.”

Ilyasova has noticed a change in the flow of the offense and has capitalized on defensive mismatches when opponents swarm Embiid. 

“We just share the ball well,” Ilyasova said. “I find myself open. Obviously Joel does a great job of as far as when there is a double-team, just kicking out. When I see the open look, I try to knock that shot down.” 

This style of play is mutually beneficial for both Embiid and his teammates. Just because Embiid is passing out doesn't mean he's not getting his looks. Oftentimes, dishing out of a double-team allows him to get a better look on the next touch. 

“It’s a team effort," Covington said. "We’re doing so much as a unit that we’re not just focusing on just get Jo the ball and let him do his thing. He’s getting the ball, he’s surveying the floor and then he’s making his moves. He’s reading the defense really well. He’s doing a lot of [kicking out]. Then we find him a lot of re-posts and finding the open shot and making it easy for him to find the easy bucket.” 

Embiid is capable of scoring 20-plus in spite of his 28-minute restriction. The Sixers are making strides, though, by finding ways to win when he isn’t the running up the scoreboard. 

“I think there’s no doubt Jo is our best player and our offense is going to revolve around him most of the time,” Stauskas said. “But we’re playing our best when he’s posting up and kicking out to guys and they’re hitting threes or we’re taking pressure off him by making plays and the defense can’t just be solely focused on him. In a game like tonight, that’s kind of what you saw.”