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.

Aaron Rodgers tosses 3 TDs to help Packers pull away from Bears

Aaron Rodgers tosses 3 TDs to help Packers pull away from Bears


GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers set a record. The Chicago Bears lost another quarterback.

After a slow start in the red zone, the Green Bay Packers picked up the pace in the second half to overpower their offensively-challenged NFC North rivals.

Rodgers threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns, Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery emerged as playmakers in the second half and Packers beat the Bears 26-10 on Thursday night.

Rodgers was 39 of 56, setting a franchise mark for completions in a game. It was the Packers' first contest without injured running back Eddie Lacy .

"A lot of moving parts, a very satisfying victory at home," coach Mike McCarthy said.

The Packers (4-2) moved effectively on short gains most of the night, but couldn't break into the end zone until Adams caught the first of his two touchdown receptions with 9:11 left in the third quarter for a 13-10 lead.

Rodgers and Adams combined again for a 4-yard score on the first play of fourth quarter for a 10-point lead.

The Bears (1-6) lost quarterback Brian Hoyer to a broken left arm in the second quarter. With Jay Cutler already out with a right thumb injury, Chicago turned to third-stringer Matt Barkley.

An offense that was already 31st in the league in scoring got worse. Barkley was 6 of 15 for 81 yards and two interceptions.

"Well, when you lose your starting quarterback it can be disruptive," Bears coach John Fox said. "It's not an excuse, it's just a reality,"

He tried to lean on the rush against the NFL's third-best run defense. It didn't work either.

Kadeem Carey had 48 yards on 10 carries, including a 24-yarder. Receiver Alshon Jeffery was held to three catches for 33 yards against a Packers secondary without its top three cornerbacks because of injuries.

It got so bad for the Bears that Rodgers had more completions (37) than the Bears had offensive plays (36) by 5:31 of the fourth quarter.

That 37th completion for Rodgers was a 2-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb for a 16-point lead.

Adams, Montgomery and Cobb each finished with at least 10 receptions.

Hoyer hurt
Hoyer left early in the second quarter after getting hit by Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews on an incompletion on third-and-6 from midfield. The right-handed Hoyer looked as if he landed on his left arm . He was attended to by trainers on the field for a couple minutes before going to the locker room. Hoyer was 4 of 11 for 49 yards.

Triple threat
Adams had 13 catches for a career-high 132 yards, making Jordy Nelson-like moves to spin out of tackles for extra yards. Adams had just been cleared earlier Thursday from the NFL's concussion protocol after leaving the loss Sunday to Dallas.

Cobb finished with 11 catches for 95 yards.

Montgomery, who got the start in the backfield with running backs Lacy (ankle) and James Starks (knee) out, finished with 10 catches for 66 yards, and nine carries for 60 yards.

"You do what you have to do, you play the way you have to play," McCarthy said.

Big Floyd
The Bears' only touchdown came from rookie pass-rushing linebacker Leonard Floyd, who forced Rodgers to fumble on third-and-10 from the 15 on a sack. Floyd recovered the ball in the end zone for a 10-6 lead, 30 seconds into the third quarter.

Floyd had been limited in practice this week with a calf injury.

"He's got those kind of abilities. It's been problematic a little bit having him out there, but it was good to have him back out there tonight," Fox said.

The Packers scored touchdowns on their next three drives.

Slow start
The Packers moved effectively with short passes in the first half but stalled on three drives inside the 22. Mason Crosby salvaged two series with field goals, but the Packers went scoreless on another drive when Montgomery was stopped on a fourth-and-goal run from the 1.

Green Bay, which led 6-3 at the half, exploited the Bears' underneath coverage. They also threw short passes as a substitute for the running game.

"It means we threw it a lot. But a lot of times records like these are achieved in losses when you're way behind," Rodgers about his completions record.

Injury report
Bears: Besides Hoyer, RG Kyle Long left in the second quarter with an arm injury.

Packers: RB Don Jackson, who was just activated from the practice squad Thursday to replace Lacy, left in the first quarter with a hand injury.

MLB Playoffs: Cubs beat Dodgers, move one win away from World Series

MLB Playoffs: Cubs beat Dodgers, move one win away from World Series


LOS ANGELES -- One win away. Two chances at home. Seven decades of waiting.

The Chicago Cubs closed in on their first World Series trip since 1945 by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 on Thursday in Game 5 of their National League playoff.

Jon Lester pitched seven sharp innings, Addison Russell hit a tiebreaking homer and the Cubs grabbed a 3-2 lead in the NL Championship Series.

On deck, a pair of opportunities to wrap up that elusive pennant at Wrigley Field.

"The city of Chicago has got to be buzzing pretty much right now," manager Joe Maddon said. "We're not going to run away from anything. It's within our reach right now."

The Cubs' first opportunity to clinch comes Saturday night in Game 6, when Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw faces major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks.

"That's a game we expect to win," Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said.

Of course, the Cubs were in the same favorable position 13 years ago -- heading home to Wrigley with a 3-2 lead in the NLCS.

But even with ace pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood starting the final two games, Chicago collapsed against the Marlins in one of its most excruciating failures.

More than a decade later, the franchise is still chasing its first World Series championship since 1908.

"We've heard the history," center fielder Dexter Fowler said, "but at the same time we're trying to make history."

Budding star Javier Baez was in the middle of everything for the Cubs, a common theme this October. The second baseman made a sensational defensive play when the game was still close in the seventh, and his three-run double capped a five-run eighth that made it 8-1.

After busting out of his postseason slump Wednesday, Russell hit a two-run homer for the second straight game. This one was a sixth-inning drive off losing pitcher Joe Blanton that gave Chicago a 3-1 lead.

"Just rounding the bases, it was pretty exciting," Russell said. "Pumped up, not only for myself but for the team and that little cushion that Jonny had to go forward from that."

Baez had three of Chicago's 13 hits, matching the team's total in Game 4, when the Cubs snapped a 21-inning scoreless streak and won 10-2.

Lester allowed one run and five hits, improving to 2-0 in three playoff starts this year. He has given up two runs in 21 innings.

The left-hander struck out six and walked one in a slow-paced game that lasted 4 hours, 16 minutes.

"These guys won the game for us," Lester said, nodding toward Russell and Baez. "I was just kind of along for the ride."

Anthony Rizzo's run-scoring double gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the first.

Los Angeles tied it in the fourth on Adrian Gonzalez's RBI groundout.

Russell homered on an 0-1 pitch from Blanton, who gave up a single to Baez leading off the sixth. Baez stole second before Russell's shot to left-center put the Cubs ahead on another unusually hot night at Dodger Stadium.

Blanton took his second loss of the series. The veteran right-hander gave up consecutive homers in the eighth inning of Game 1, including a tiebreaking grand slam by pinch-hitter Miguel Montero.

"Our confidence hasn't wavered," Roberts said. "This series certainly isn't over."

With the Dodgers trailing 3-1 in the seventh, Gonzalez found himself on the wrong end of a replay review for the second consecutive night.

With Baez playing way out on the outfield grass in shallow right, the slow-footed Gonzalez tried to take advantage with a drag bunt leading off the inning. Baez rushed in for a barehanded scoop and off-balance throw, but Gonzalez initially was called safe by first base umpire Ted Barrett. The Cubs challenged and the ruling was overturned.

In Game 4, Gonzalez was tagged out at home to end the second after diving with his left hand stretched toward the plate while catcher Willson Contreras applied a tag. The Dodgers challenged, but the video review upheld umpire Angel Hernandez's out call.

Chicago jumped on struggling Dodgers rookie Kenta Maeda from the start. Fowler singled leading off the game and scored on Rizzo's double to right two batters later.

Maeda gave up one run and three hits over 3 2/3 innings. The right-hander has allowed eight earned runs in 10 2/3 innings this postseason.

The Dodgers' defense fell apart in the eighth.

Gonzalez tried flipping Russell's slow roller to reliever Pedro Baez, who came over to cover first and bobbled the ball for an error.

Contreras followed with a pinch-hit single, and the runners moved up on pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr.'s sacrifice bunt. Fowler reached on an infield single to first, with Gonzalez losing a foot race when Fowler slid into the bag as Russell scored.

Kris Bryant reached on an infield single to third, with the Dodgers unsuccessfully challenging the call that he was safe.

The Dodgers thought they'd finally escaped the inning when Rizzo lined out to second baseman Kike Hernandez, who nearly doubled up Fowler at second. But the Cubs challenged the call and it was reversed, prolonging the inning.

Baez got yanked after walking Ben Zobrist to load the bases. Ross Stripling came on to face Baez, who doubled to deep right, driving in three more runs.

"We can grab that momentum by one name: Kershaw," Gonzalez said. "We don't want to put it all on him, but if we score a couple of runs, we'll feel real good."

Scully returns
Vin Scully was back at Dodger Stadium for the first time since ending his 67-year career behind the microphone earlier this month.

The 88-year-old Hall of Fame announcer attended as a spectator and proclaimed, "It's time for Dodger baseball!" from an upstairs suite.

Cubs outfielder Matt Szczur isn't on the NLCS roster, but he's contributing. A day after his bat was borrowed by Rizzo to hit a home run, Szczur revealed during an in-game TV interview that Russell wore a pair of his underwear leggings Wednesday after leaving his own at home.

Up next
Dodgers: Kershaw takes the mound in Chicago on an extra day of rest. The left-hander is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance this postseason. Overall, the three-time Cy Young Award winner is 4-6 with a 4.39 ERA in 17 career playoff appearances.

Cubs: Hendricks' 2.13 ERA was tops in the majors this season. The right-hander allowed a solo homer in 5 1/3 innings of Game 2, his longest career postseason start. The Cubs lost 1-0 to Kershaw.