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Vegas Vacation

Vegas Vacation

Vegas Vacation
February 9, 2007

In one of the most courageous moves in history, David Stern has allowed the 2007 NBA All-Star game to be played in Sin City. That’s right, the ballers are going to Las Vegas.

Charles Barkley, empty your wallet.

But what’s a basketball bettor to do in this neutral-site game? There’s no home team to bet against - the ‘home’ team is 1-5 against the spread in the past six midseason showcases. And there’s no hometown hero to count on to have a big game.

Last year, Houston’s Tracy McGrady put up 36 points while playing on his home court.

Shaquille O’Neal dominated the 2004 edition at the Staples Center, a game won 136-132 by the West.

Kobe Bryant was MVP of the 2002 game in Philly, a 135-120 rout by the West. Although Kobe played for the Lakers, he grew up in Philly and had some extra incentive to help the West.

Go way back to the 1993 game in Salt Lake City and Jazz teammates Karl Malone and John Stockton were co-winners of the MVP award in a 135-132 West win.

With the 2007 NBA All-Star Game being played on February 18, 2007 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas (and even without its own NBA team), does geography make this a West ‘home’ game? Do the odds to win the NBA All-Star Game favor the West? Seems like a bit of a stretch. Vegas isn’t east or west; it’s in its own world.

How else can bettors handicap a game where the West is likely to be favored again?

Maybe it will be the cleanest-living players who can most resist all the sinful temptation in Vegas. The team with the fewest party animals. You know, the young men who don’t like to swig shooters, play craps until dawn and hang out with strippers. Unfortunately, it turns out A.C. Green didn’t make the squad.

Maybe betting the side is a toss-up this year, since the past six games have been split evenly between the East and West.

Bet on NBA Basketball: Over or Under?

What about the total, which is traditionally set in the mid 250s or higher.

Square bettors love betting over and what better opportunity for an over call than having all the top scorers on the planet on the same court?

Going back to those same six recent All-Star Games, three have played over. But it took two overtimes for the 2003 game in Atlanta and the 135-120 final in the 2002 game in Philly barely crept over 253.5.

Again, Vegas is the wildcard in all this. How much energy will the players have after a night of carousing and drinking? Does that make for a sloppy defensive game with tons of scoring or a sloppy offensive game where double-visioned shooters launch brick after brick?

Not all of the league’s top long-range bombers are in Vegas, however. Gilbert Arenas leads the league in treys, but 16 of the top 20 leaders are not in town. Steve Nash and Vince Carter and Chauncey Billups are the others leading the treys-per-game category.

Looking for the best NBA odds to win this thing? Want an off-the-wall theory? The second half sees more scoring than the first half after the players sweat out some booze and start seeing – and shooting - straight.

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Re: Vegas Vacation

League may get serious about putting team in Sin City
The Associated Press

Let’s start with a bet.

Will the NBA return to Las Vegas, this time on a permanent basis, after the Feb. 18 All-Star game?

“Absolutely, not even close,” Mayor Oscar Goodman said.

If only it were that simple.

Sending a team to Las Vegas would require NBA commissioner David Stern to change his stance on gambling. He was quite clear on the subject last year: “We are not going to go there while they have betting on NBA games.”

A year later, Stern seemed to leave room for hope in an interview with The Associated Press, saying the decision isn’t solely his to make.

“I guess all I’d say is that we’ve been having these discussions now for somewhere over 20 years,” he said. “But on the other hand, our owners are the ones that ultimately call the shots, and so I wouldn’t ... there’s no sense in laying down at the bridge. But right now our policy has been very consistent and has been acted upon for the last two decades.”

But in a league where teams from Seattle to New Orleans face uncertain futures in their cities, how long can Stern expect his owners to back that policy if there’s money to be made in a market that longs for a team?

Gavin Maloof, whose family owns the Sacramento Kings and the Palms, where the players will stay next week, said he supports Stern but believes the policy is antiquated. He said he expects the NBA will announce Las Vegas is getting a team in the next five years.

“Every owner that I’ve ever spoken to loves Vegas,” he said. “I can’t speak for them, but I know that this All-Star game was a big hit.”

Goodman desperately wants a pro sports franchise for his city. Getting All-Star weekend to the Strip was fairly simple. With the Maloofs acting as a go-between, NBA officials let Goodman know the city had a chance to host if the casinos wouldn’t take bets on the exhibition.

Now all he has to do is get wagering removed for real NBA games, and he could move closer to his goal.

Don’t bet on it.

Goodman said he would not consider eliminating gambling on the NBA, nor does he think he needs to. He seems to believe he can persuade Stern to change his mind.

“I believe that when the two of us sit down quietly, we’re going to be able to resolve any issues that are outstanding,” Goodman told the AP. “And I believe that Las Vegas is a city that will become home to the world’s team. As Dallas was America’s team in football, the Las Vegas Oscars will be the world team.”

Las Vegas already has a passionate basketball fan base. The city showed how much it loves hoops when UNLV was the greatest show in college basketball in the early 1990s. During an exhibition game against Puerto Rico last summer at the Thomas & Mack Center, U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski was greeted with a number of boos during pregame introductions — 15 years after his Duke team ended the Runnin’ Rebels undefeated season with an upset in the Final Four.

“Vegas is a very special place. I had a blast there,” said Phoenix All-Star Shawn Marion, who played for the Rebels. “The fans are unbelievable, and the difference between UNLV fans and most college fans is UNLV fans are more like NBA fans because they’re older.

“It’s crazy because they love basketball just as much as everybody else around the country. They’re going to show it, too.”

So far, it looks as if UNLV would welcome the NBA. The Rebels have been accommodating, making sure they’ll be on the road for All-Star weekend. The school will make some money for the use of its facilities, but athletic director Mike Hamrick said he most valued the exposure for the university and the city.

“I like NBA basketball as well as any pro sport,” Hamrick said. “My No. 1 priority is UNLV, and if an NBA team came here that would be great for our city.”

Las Vegas occupies a prominent spot on the basketball calendar these days. Plenty of NBA personnel will spend time there this summer, for the Las Vegas summer league or the FIBA Americas tournament, a 2008 Beijing Olympics qualifier.

“It’s kind of the basketball capital of the country in the summer,” said USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo, whose team will train at UNLV the next two years.

Colangelo, one of basketball’s most respected voices and a former chairman of the NBA’s Board of Governors, said he believes Las Vegas will have a team someday. Stern is aware there are probably others within the league who feel the same way.

“I’m not wrestling them to the ground,” Stern said. “I’m much more philosophical.

“I never say never, but I think that you have to ... it isn’t about rhetoric, it’s about actions.”

Stern said gambling is his only objection to Las Vegas, so Goodman could call his bluff. But the place Goodman calls “the next great world city” isn’t about to forget how important betting has been to its success.

Jay Kornegay, the executive director of race and sports at the Las Vegas Hilton, said NBA betting represents about 15 percent of his sports book’s total handle. He said it would be hypocritical to have an NBA team in the city and not take action on it.

Like Maloof — who isn’t allowed to have NBA betting in his casino because he owns a team — he doesn’t think gambling on NBA games has to be eliminated.

“I think that we have proven over the last six years that taking wagers on games that are played within the state of Nevada haven’t changed anything,” Kornegay said. “We’ve also taken wagers on different sporting events that took place within the city limits, and you see no different betting patterns on those games as you would taking bets on something that would happen clear across the world.”

So Goodman continues to dream of a pro sports franchise playing in his city.

But will it be an NBA team?

Stern won’t bet.

“I’m going to withhold a response to that and just say that our policy is what it is until the owners elect to change it,” Stern said. “And since I’m not in the handicapping business, I’m not planning to give you a line on that eventuality.”

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Re: Vegas Vacation

Las Vegas Has Got the Game, but It Wants a Team

LAS VEGAS, Feb. 9 — Here, where the fountains dance and the stage lights never go dark, where the cheesy and the risqué mingle alongside celebrities to a soundtrack of slot machines, decadence has found a new friend.

The N.B.A. All-Star Game, the league’s biggest annual party, is about to descend here next weekend. The game, of course, is only an exhibition. But what isn’t in Las Vegas?

For the first time, a non-N.B.A. city will play host to the All-Star Game. Las Vegas, one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas (population: 1.9 million) in the country without a professional sports team, wants to showcase itself as worthy of becoming a full-time major league city.

The odds, however, that the N.B.A. or any other league will soon come to Las Vegas for more than just a vacation — through relocation or expansion — are low. For now.

David Stern, the N.B.A. commissioner, has made “integrity of the game” his battle cry in the years since the Pacers-Pistons brawl and says that local gambling on the league, though regulated, would violate that tenet. He maintains that casinos must take all N.B.A. games off their oddsmakers’ books before Las Vegas could be a viable site.

“There’s only one stumbling block,” Stern said in an interview this week, referring to the legalized betting on N.B.A. games. “It has to be off the books for consideration. It is that, more than any other issue.”

To be sure, the building and financing of a new Las Vegas arena to replace the 23-year-old Thomas & Mack Center could be almost as difficult. Already, arena-financing issues are threatening franchises in Sacramento and Seattle, and, to a lesser degree, Orlando and Milwaukee. Las Vegas could offer an exit strategy for some franchises, but not for the Sacramento Kings.

Joe Maloof, whose family owns the Kings and operates the thriving Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, said he wanted the team to remain in Sacramento.

“Sooner, rather than later, there’s going to be an N.B.A. team in Las Vegas,” said Maloof, who added that Coach Jerry Tarkanian’s success in the early 1990s at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas made the city a true basketball destination. “It’s one of the great last cities that doesn’t have a franchise, and it needs one.”

Joe Maloof’s brother George, the owner of the Palms, estimated that there was a 10 percent chance that a professional sports team would move to Las Vegas in the next five years. But the city’s colorful mayor, Oscar Goodman, who likes to promote his city with showgirls on his arm, projected far better odds.

“Guaranteed — even money,” Goodman said in an interview Friday in his office. “I bet on anything that moves. I’m ready to bet my reputation that we will have serious discussions about getting a major league franchise here in Las Vegas, and these discussions will begin before the spring of this year.”

Goodman would not say whether it would be an N.B.A. or N.H.L. team, only that it would not be a baseball or football team.

Major League Baseball did flirt with Las Vegas in 2004 about relocating the Montreal Expos there before eventually deciding on Washington. Officials from the Florida Marlins also met with Goodman in 2004 before Commissioner Bud Selig directed Goodman to stop the talks because baseball wanted the team to remain in South Florida.

Before the Super Bowl last Sunday, N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell bluntly dismissed Las Vegas as a site. “I have my personal views about gambling, and I don’t think it’s in the best interests of the N.F.L. to have any association with sports betting,” Goodell said.

The N.F.L., of course, is the professional league that generates the most betting revenue, according to Nevada’s Gaming Control Board.

Meanwhile, given the N.H.L.’s struggles, perhaps it was not surprising that Bill Daly, the league’s deputy commissioner, said in a telephone interview Friday that the league would have a “flexible approach” toward local betting on the sport if a franchise ended up in Las Vegas.

Goodman first met with officials from the N.H.L. several years ago. “There’s clearly a return interest,” Daly said, adding that some private parties in Las Vegas were having continuing discussions.

During the N.B.A. All-Star weekend, by order of Stern and Nevada’s Gaming Control Board, casinos cannot offer betting on the All-Star Game.

“We’re talking about one basketball game right now, and it’s really an exhibition,” said Chuck Esposito, the assistant vice president for race and sports book operations at Caesars Palace. “There are so many other positives from one game.” But, he added, taking one of the major sports off the casino betting boards on a permanent basis “would have much more of an impact in the industry.”

As a result, he said, “We’d have to weigh all the pros and cons” of an N.B.A. franchise in Las Vegas.

Because of the Maloofs’ ownership of the Kings, the Palms cannot have betting on any N.B.A. games, at any time. “It hurts us a little bit,” Joe Maloof said. “We still show the games, but they can’t bet on it.”

For decades, casinos prohibited betting on U.N.L.V. games, but in 2001 Nevada’s Gaming Control Board reversed the ban. What if the N.B.A. were to accept a partial ban, perhaps only on games that a Las Vegas franchise plays?

Goodman sees compromise as essential. A trial lawyer who made his reputation defending organized crime bosses in Las Vegas, Goodman is preparing to plead his case to Stern next week. “Hopefully, I can change his mind,” Goodman said. “He’s a smart man.”

Neither Stern nor his owners appear to be in a hurry to resolve the issue.

“I don’t know enough of the details about the city to give a final answer, but philosophically I have no problem with the gambling side of it,” Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks’ owner, wrote in an e-mail message Thursday when asked about the possibility of an N.B.A. team in Las Vegas. “If the economics work, I’m all for it.”

The Houston Rockets’ owner, Les Alexander, said: “I think the owners are in favor of it. I don’t see any reason why the N.B.A. wouldn’t be successful in Vegas. It’s a big enough population. The potential for arena suite sales and sponsorships could make it one of the best.”

The N.B.A. All-Star Game caters precisely to that kind of crowd. Tickets for the game were available to sponsors and to the league’s international partners, but not directly available to fans.

Sponsors are renting out lavish suites in the Palms, where all the players are staying. Nike has taken over the 10,000-square foot Hardwood Suite in the Palms, complete with a small basketball court and a Jacuzzi.

Adidas has placed giant screen murals of its stars — Tracy McGrady, Gilbert Arenas, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard — on the side of the MGM Grand and Luxor Hotels. Dwyane Wade posts up for T-Mobile on the side of the Mandalay Bay.

The idea for an N.B.A. All-Star Game in Las Vegas came from the Maloof brothers, who approached Stern. By the summer of 2005, the game was approved by the casinos, the city and the league.

Stern is excited about Las Vegas’s entertainment value, but he plays down the risk of an image hit for the league in a city known for indiscretion. Of course, more damage might have been done to the N.B.A.’s image in America’s heartland this season when Indiana Pacers players engaged in two late-night incidents at Indianapolis nightclubs.

“There’s potential in any city,” Stern said. “What we’ve found is that indiscretion knows no geographic boundaries or political boundaries.”

The N.B.A. is going where gambling is strictly regulated and casinos already have a high level of security and surveillance. City officials are so confident in their ability to play host to major events that Rossi Ralenkotter, the president of the Convention and Visitors Authority, has already talked to Stern about bringing the game back in 2011.

“I think it is fair to say that this is a test case — for both neutral sites as well as Las Vegas as such a site,” Stern said Friday.

As for real contests, the N.B.A. is no stranger to Las Vegas. The Utah Jazz played 11 games of its 1983-84 season there while its arena was under construction. During the Los Angeles riots of 1992, a Lakers first-round playoff game against the Portland Trail Blazers was moved there.

Whether the county government wants to build a new arena for a permanent N.B.A. team is another story.

Rory Reid, chairman of the Clark County Board of Commissioners, formed a task force with Goodman to determine the necessity and cost of a new arena to lure a franchise to Las Vegas. Reid has dampened Goodman’s enthusiasm lately by declaring that the public should not finance an arena. “It should not be our No. 1 priority,” Reid said, considering the more pressing social welfare and criminal justice issues.

Despite such potential obstacles, SportsCorp’s Marc Ganis, a consultant who has analyzed relocations for nine franchises, said it was only a matter of time before some league chooses Las Vegas. “Because there is too much of a potential pot of gold for the first one,” Ganis said.

For now, Las Vegas awaits the N.B.A. family, coming to celebrate the past, present and future of the game.

Both city and N.B.A. leaders are keeping their fingers crossed that impropriety is kept to a minimum. They are equally curious to see if what happens in Vegas — N.B.A. basketball — will eventually stay there.

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Re: Vegas Vacation



February 12, 2007 -- With the NBA's All-Star Game and related festivities headed for Las Vegas, this week, it's worth noting how the NBA's relationship with gambling has, shall we say, "evolved."

In 1991, during hearings about legalized gambling before the New Jersey legislature in Trenton and a federal legislature in Washington, David Stern testified. His message was clear and soulful: The NBA is vehemently opposed to anything that might encourage kids to link the NBA to gambling.

But since 2000:

* NBA team logos appear on lottery tickets, the NBA having sold licensing and marketing rights to several state lotteries.

* A Connecticut resort-casino became the owner and home of a WNBA team.

* The NBA granted this year's All-Star Game to Las Vegas, the first time the game, played since 1951, will be played outside an NBA team's city.

* TNT, an NBA TV network, this week from Vegas and in conjunction with the NBA All-Star Game, will sponsor, "Kenny Smith's All-Star Celebrity Poker Challenge Hosted by LeBron James."

* Smith's NBA on TNT studio partner, Charles Barkley, perhaps the NBA's best known TV personality, has a profound gambling problem. Although he claimed to have won $700,000, last week, playing blackjack and betting the Super Bowl in Vegas, he estimates his total gambling losses to be $10 million.

So Stern's plea to lawmakers on behalf of both children and the integrity of his sports wasn't worth a comp to a casino buffet line, was it? When the NBA began to embrace gambling, we asked why. "Times have changed," a spokesperson replied on Stern's behalf.

Maybe times have changed, but what about kids? In 1991 it was bad idea for the NBA to point kids toward gambling, but by 2000 it became a good idea?

As for David Stern, fighter of good, high-minded fights, he threw in the towel on this one before he even broke a sweat.

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Re: Vegas Vacation

Modern Vegas no threat to pro sports
Michael Rosenberg / Special to

The NBA is taking its All-Star game to Las Vegas this week. I'd like to place the first wager. I'll put $10,000 on the league surviving until next week.

What? Nobody will take that action?

Just 15 years ago, the idea of a major sport taking its All-Star game to Sin City would have been absurd. Vegas meant sports gambling, and sports gambling meant Pete Rose, the Chicago Black Sox and CCNY.

Well, it is time to change the thinking. Las Vegas deserves a pro sports team. Is there a risk? No more than putting a hockey team in Phoenix.

I understand the concerns about a point-shaving scandal. That has always been every league's worst nightmare, and for good reason: it undermines the whole point of the enterprise. We watch the games under the assumption that the games are not fixed. If games are fixed, why watch?

I get all that. What I do not understand is why, in 2007, people think a pro team in Vegas is more susceptible to a gambling scandal than a pro team anywhere else.

If an NBA star wants to gamble, all he needs is an Internet connection. Gambling websites are easily found — they are conveniently located in places like Costa Rica, away from U.S. authorities, but they are clearly aimed at Americans.

If that NBA star wants a little danger mixed in, he can go to the local mob.

But only a total idiot NBA star would walk into the sports book at the Mirage and wager on NBA games, let alone his own games.

Yeah, I know, he can send his buddy to do that for him (if only the NBA star can somehow find a hanger-on to run his chores for him).

But at least gambling in Vegas is regulated. That is more than you can say for most of the millions of dollars wagered on sports in America every year. When Arizona State players fixed four games in the 1993-94 season, they were eventually caught partly because Vegas casinos noticed a suspicious gambling pattern.

The All-Star festivities will be over after this weekend, but the NBA may be back in Las Vegas with a permanent franchise.

Think about that for a second. This means that if a player tries to fix a game in Las Vegas, he is more likely to get caught there than anywhere else in the country.

Gambling on sports is a complicated issue.

The libertarian in me thinks gambling should be legal everywhere, in principle. Is it really more harmful to society than drinking? I mean, when was the last time you saw somebody killed by a gambling driver?

The pragmatist in me thinks that if you can't gamble everywhere, it might as well be illegal.

The sports fan in me likes to monitor point spreads, but worries about a scandal affecting his games.

The claustrophobe in me thinks there are way too many people in me.

Like I said; it's a complicated issue.

But the old thinking of "Vegas = gambling = avoid at all costs" is way, way too simple.

Look, point-shaving and game-fixing are major threats to professional and college sports. With the proliferation of gambling websites and incredible money at stake for bookies, it is quite likely that games have been fixed in recent years and we just don't know about it.

If anything, leagues need to take a more aggressive stance toward gambling.

They can start by showing that they know the world has changed. It is easy to paint Vegas as the big, bad threat to sports. But this is 2007, not 1977. Casinos are usually owned by major corporations, not mobsters. Las Vegas is not an outlaw desert town — it is a thriving metropolitan area with a thriving entertainment industry. Someday, some commissioner will realize that Vegas is not the enemy, and that commissioner's league will be better off for it.

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Re: Vegas Vacation

The first Vegas All-Star Game
Covers Columnist02/15/2007
By B.Gabrielle

In every sport, All-Star Games have long since outlived their usefulness.

Need proof? Do you think the basketball world is abuzz because its constituents are thrilled to be playing the NBA All-Star Game in the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of UNLV? Does the drinking water at that venue taste particularly good there? Uh, no.

The NBA is dancing in the streets because its stars and its celebrity hangers-on get to rub elbows in a city where sin is the norm.

Most of these multimillionaires already live their lives adorned by ostentatious jewelry, grotesque tattoos, $10,000 sunglasses, bottomless bottles of Kristal, and hot-and-cold running women. Playing in Las Vegas means that these guys can finally debauch in a city that reflects their true values.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, except when an NBA player leaves. Then it travels around with him like a three-ring circus, per usual.

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game, a.k.a. the Midsummer Classic, used to be the only chance we got to see stars from the American League and National League bang heads, but inter-league play has ruined that.

The Pro Bowl happens one week after the Super Bowl, and is so anticlimactic that The Godfather: Part III looks entertaining by comparison.

Hockey's All-Star Game allegedly took place a couple weeks ago, but that's just a rumor.

Michael Wilbon jokingly refers to the NBA All-Star Game as "black Thanksgiving," but given that the game will take place in Sin City this year, it should probably be called "Saturday." The drunken nonsense, the booty-squeezing, the limo-cruising, the exclusive-nightclub hanging, the Playboy Bunny-schtupping, the all-hours partying...why, that's exactly what these guys do on an average weekend, right? What's so special?

OK, so Shaq gets to live it up with Gilbert Arenas and Kevin Garnett, an opportunity regularly afforded these guys only in the offseason.

But rookie Tyrus Thomas has already come out and said the Slam Dunk Contest is only interesting because of the money it'll pay him, and the game itself will feature about as much defense as the French army on the way to Paris.

Yawn. No thanks. Let the fellas party it up in Vegas this weekend. I'll be busy cleaning the gutters and eating Velveeta on toast. Now that's living.

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Re: Vegas Vacation

Vegas scene
Scoop Jackson

LAS VEGAS -- Throw the oath out the window. That whole "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" vow that everyone takes before entering Sin City is about to be broken faster than Joe Biden's presidential run. Because the reality of what's about to spark in Vegas is something that the town has never seen, never been exposed to and never been a victim of before.

It's an idea of brilliance that is destined to spin off its axis. Too much, too many, too tempting. Too much money and irresponsibility together at one time. Too many ghetto superstars around wannabe ghetto superstars in the one place where infamy is the superstar. Too tempting for grown men to act like grown-ups. And none of us can be too naive to think that some things (plural) that we never think could ever happen over one innocent NBA All-Star weekend won't happen. It will. Because as a Diddy (who's having one of those "gots to be there" extravaganzas at the Mirage with T-Mac and adidas on Friday night) protege anthemed last summer, "It's goin' dooooown." Too easy.

This is Vegas. Home of pimps, playas and poker kings. Second home to Don King and Suge Knight. The place where high rollers and rollers that are high meet. Where women on the strip and women who strip are impossible to differentiate. And when Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman and David Stern shook hands to put in motion what's 'bout to be "the most ig'nant weekend in the history of sports," they had no idea there was a difference between ignorant and ig'nant. They've never witnessed this side of the game before.

Even gossip columnist Norman Clarke, who in many circles is considered "Mr. Vegas," might remove his signature eye patch and say, "I ain't never seen no ---- like this before in this town."

We are all about to witness something never before witnessed. A weekend that's going to make "Girls Gone Wild" look like "Yentl." Never in the history of Las Vegas has it ever had an event this massive, or one that on an annual basis attracts this many people. The NBA All-Star Game has carried the surname "the Black Folks' Super Bowl" for over a decade. It's the event where you get to see how beautiful of a people we really are and at the same time how messed up our priorities can be (i.e., floor-length mink coats in 80-degree weather, baby's hair uncombed and can't find his parents but has on a fresh pair of $80 infant Jordan XX2's, five dudes who rented five stretch Hummers for the weekend but are sharing one hotel room, etc.).

Every flight coming into town looked like Soul Plane. Every airport, as my man Mr. Bottoms texted me, "looked like the Million Man March."

And for the first time in America's history the $40 million "employees" William C. Rhoden wrote about are about to enter the world's (change that to "country's" because Amsterdam, Dubai and Brazil might have Vegas beat) ultimate grown-folks playground on the company's dime and time. Free at last, free at last &#133 but this wasn't quite what Dr. King had in mind.

They might have to shut down Interstate 15 coming into Vegas because, as my man from Vegas says, "They don't want too many Allen Iversons running around all at the same time." But that won't be enough, and with the Magic Convention (the largest urban apparel summit in the world) already in town, it'll be too late. The A.I. clones will be there in Bowlegged Lou force. As will the Charles Barkley clones ready to lose $700g, the Steve Nash clones ready to kick it until the paper is delivered the next morning, and the Kim Kardashian clones who are going to turn heads and turn men out to the level that thousands of "Sunshine" calls may be made before the weekend is over.

At the end of the day on Sunday, everybody and they baby's mama is going to want -- and feel compelled to, once they leave Vegas -- to tell their side of the story.

It's only going to take one reported incident to make David Stern wonder, why in the hell did I do this? But the problem will be, there will be more than one.

The over/under is one player arrested, one might get shot, at least three wives will file for divorce on Monday, and (we failed to put a number on this, so fill in the blank) _____ number of kids whose mommies didn't know their NBA daddies before Feb. 15 born 40 weeks from now. Enough to make Shawn Kemp proud.

The single players, the rookies, the sophs, the superstars, the legends, the replacements, the first-timers, the analysts that used to hoop, anyone in the D-League, anyone that is or has ever been a member of the NBA players' union will be fair game.

There will be enough Gabrielle Union replicas to make John Amaechi change his mind. One big Magic City. One big Rolex. One big Sean Paul video. Carmelo beware. Dirk beware. Gilbert (really) beware. The platinum diggers will be out in force. They also know that this is a weekend like no other and the chances of making an Eva Longoria connection with an NBA player over the next three days in Vegas is greater than it's ever been in the league's history. And every one of them will have Joumana Kidd's lawyer in their T-Mobile five by the end of next week.

Every dealer at the Wynn, the Bellagio and Mandalay Bay knows. They've been warned, prepped to make sure the millions that are about to be dropped on velvet tables over the weekend stay in-house as much as possible. Every cop on the LVPD knows. They know they can make names for themselves and wind up on "Inside Edition" if they bust one player doing the slightest thing wrong. Every media person, producer to beat writer to paparazzi, knows. We've been instructed to get stories, find stories on you, your boys who came down to kick it with you, your family. We have orders to hang out with you all, we've been given expense accounts to run up tabs for you, anything to put you and your weekend on blast come Monday's deadline.

It's the lure of Vegas that has lured all of us here. To see if this impossibility can be pulled off without a Stephen Jackson or Kobe Bryant-like scandal. Stern and the Maloof brothers are betting that it can (they are determined to bring a team here); the rest of us are hesitant to call or raise them on it. Either way, it's about to be an experience like nothing we have ever experienced. The coexistence of heaven and hell with the game of basketball somewhere lost in the middle. Hopefully Bill Simmons appreciates it.

I didn't want to come to this year's All-Star weekend, thought it would be too O.C. (outta control). But now I'm glad I'm here. Not for the drama, but for the spectacle, the intrigue of what might happen, the fun, the sadness, the ghetto royalty that's about to unfold. Vegas will never be the same once this weekend is over. Neither might I.

Now if I can only find Tim Hardaway.


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Vegas all in for NBA weekend

LAS VEGAS – Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman has made his intentions clear for a long time: one of his top priorities is to bring a professional sports team to Las Vegas. He believes it's a marriage made in heaven.

The past five years, Goodman has flirted shamelessly with every pro sports franchise that has shown an intention to relocate (Vancouver Grizzles, Montreal Expos, Florida Marlins) and met with the commissioner of each major sports league to see what needs to be done. The most visible courtship was the one that landed this Sunday's All-Star Game in Las Vegas, the first non-league city to host the event.

Since the date was set 18 months ago, Las Vegas has been planning for the weekend-long extravaganza, and primping and preening. A look around town shows that Vegas is trying to give a great first impression.

NBA commissioner David Stern has publicly maintained that the NBA would never put a team in a city that allows gambling on the league. He coyly has said that this weekend is just a one-time fling and that it wasn't to be seen as leading to a more meaningful relationship. But Goodman has always seen it as more than that.

Goodman's persistence appears to be paying off. On Wednesday, which was Valentine's Day ironically enough, Stern asked Goodman to come up with a proposal regarding the gambling issue prior to the NBA board of governors meeting on April 23 so the league could consider a compromise that would allow Las Vegas to have a team in the future. Stern also said that, despite his spoken stance, the decision is primarily up to the board and the league's owners.

Goodman said he will meet with casino owners, sports book directors, and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to come up with the best plan. No one in the industry is in favor of completely taking the NBA off the betting boards, but there is plenty of middle ground. Conventional wisdom says that Goodman will dust off the so-called "UNLV rule" that used to forbid local sports books from taking bets on college games involving the state's universities. That rule was in effect until 2001 when Congress was trying to outlaw college sports gambling and said that Nevada - despite arguing that sports betting wasn't harmful and that the regulated books actually protect the integrity of the games - was being hypocritical by taking bets on teams all over the country but not on its local teams. So, the state's Gaming Control Board conceded that point and has booked UNLV and Nevada-Reno games ever since without incident.

It would seem odd to bring that rule back, but if that what it takes to make the NBA (or another pro league) comfortable enough to consider putting a team here permanently, it's something that has to be considered.

And with the softening of its stance, it appears the NBA could live with such a compromise. The league is coming here this weekend despite the city still booking NBA games.

A little background: When the subject of hosting the game first came up, Stern said the league would consider it only if Las Vegas took the game and its related activities off the board. Palms owner George Maloof, whose family also owns the Sacramento Kings, called around to the other casino owners to make sure they would agree to that if the city were to host the event.

On June 23, 2005, the Gaming Control Board passed an order mandating that no wagers be taken on the 2007 NBA All-Star Game if it were held locally, and on Aug. 5, 2005, the league officially awarded the game to Las Vegas.

Vegas knows how to throw a party

New Year's Eve started the year with a bang as usual. The Super Bowl was, well, the Super Bowl. But as extravagant as those celebrations were, they don't match what is coming this weekend when Las Vegas rolls out the red carpet for the NBA.

The 24 all-stars themselves will be housed at the Palms, where they have nearly 8-foot-long beds made especially for the tall crowd, and a good portion of the league will also be in town for the festivities. Nike is renting the $25,000-a-night Hardwood Suite at the Palms for its party, and many of the sports' biggest stars will be hanging out there, but they'll also be all over town. And the parties are off the charts. Most of them have cover charges in the $100 range, unless, of course, you happen to be on the VIP lost to begin with.

Probably the best deal for an open-to-the-public party is the Pure Slam Dunks party at 10 p.m. Saturday at Pure inside Caesars Palace. It's hosted by Tony Parker of the Spurs (and his significant other, Eva Longoria) and it's only $30 for men and $20 for women. Of course, unless you're already in line while reading this, you might not get in because it probably will be the longest line in town with those prices.

For those who can't afford the parties or don't have tickets to the other events, the All-Star Jam Session opened Thursday with more than 400,000 square feet of interactive basketball activities at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Fans will be able to meet NBA players and legends, collect autographs, shoot hoops on more than 10 courts, dunk on shorter baskets, and other activities. The cost is $20, with a children's price (ages 3-12) of $12. The Jam Session runs through Monday.

Tickets to the Celebrity Game on Thursday and the All-Star Practice on Saturday are sold out. Also on Saturday, at the Orleans Arena on Tropicana Avenue, the Harlem Globetrotters will play a doubleheader, first game vs. the New York Nationals at 11 a.m. and then vs. the Dennis Rodman All-Stars at 2 p.m.

The weekend wouldn't be complete without the skills competition, 3-point shooting contest, and dunk contest on Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack.

Oh, yeah, and then there's the actual NBA All-Star game on Sunday. That is also sold out, with ticket brokers asking at least $1,500 for nosebleed seats in the rafters to $25,000 for courtside seats.

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mvbski wrote:

Oh, yeah, and then there's the actual NBA All-Star game on Sunday. That is also sold out, with ticket brokers asking at least $1,500 for nosebleed seats in the rafters to $25,000 for courtside seats.

I wouldn't pay 1.00 to watch this game in person  ;D

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All-Star notebook: Nash taking no chances with his money
By Jerry Brown

LAS VEGAS - Steve Nash has plenty of free time in Las Vegas this weekend as he sits out the All-Star game to rest his ailing shoulder. But you won't find him at the blackjack or poker tables or using his left arm to pull any slot machines in a casino. "I've never tried (gambling). It doesn't appear that fun to me, and it's probably good that I feel that way," Nash said. "When you have a lot of money, not a lot of good can come of it. I'm going to keep it at arm's length."

Charles Barkley, who said he won over $700,000 two weeks ago in Las Vegas playing blackjack and betting football, estimated he has lost in excess of $10 million gambling.

"I think that is a problem," Nash said. "I don't know that I want to cough up a couple of million at the card table."

Charles Barkley backed up his boast with ease Saturday, beating 67-year-old NBA referee Dick Bavetta in a 100-yard match race, running the final part of the race backwards to add an exclamation point.

The race raised $50,000 - or as the ex-Sun put it, "two hands of blackjack" - for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Las Vegas

"I have nothing against old people," Barkley said before the race. "I want to be one myself one day."

Bavetta said he felt he had a legitimate chance to win against the hefty Hall of Famer, but added, "You can never underestimate the heart of a champion.

"My thinking was if I had won, I would have represented all officials all over the world. And as much as I didn't win, I represented myself alone."

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NBA: Most Valuable Venue: Vegas
Greg Beacham / Associated Press
Monday, February 19, 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — From Kobe Bryant to the last blackjack dealer, everybody believed the NBA was a big winner after gambling on a 72-hour All-Star extravaganza in Sin City.

Sure, the main event was a bit of a bust, but the All-Star game is always a crapshoot.

Bryant had 31 points, six assists and six steals in his second MVP performance at the league's midseason showcase, and the West set All-Star records for assists and field goals in a 153-132 win over the East on Sunday night.

Nobody could bet on this game in the local casinos - the favored West covered the 4-point spread - making the result even more inconsequential than usual. Instead, this outlandish weekend will be remembered for its setting - the first All-Star game held outside an NBA franchise city, and the first with a flock of bedazzled showgirls flanking Wayne Newton for a pregame rendition of "Viva Las Vegas."

"No doubt about it, we definitely enjoyed Las Vegas," said Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire, who had 29 points and nine rebounds. "I hope the All-Star game comes back here soon, because it was a lot of fun."

After an appropriately decadent performance featuring acrobats, a juggler, Elvis impersonators and the usual All-Star hijinks from 24 NBA stars, Bryant emerged as the game's best player in front of the southern Nevada fans who adopt the Lakers as their team.

With the crowd chanting "M-V-P" in the final minute, Bryant roared through the lane and threw down a vicious dunk over Chris Bosh's head. The weekend went a whole lot better for Bryant than his previous MVP outing in 2002 in Philadelphia - where his hometown fans booed his every move.

"As players, we always want to feel like we're appreciated for what we do," Bryant said. "To have this type of reaction here in this All-Star game is very humbling. I just feel very blessed to be able to come out and put on a really good show."

Most everybody knew the real show went on in the dozens of casinos and hundreds of clubs around the Las Vegas Strip, where athletes, celebrities, groupies, entourages and old-fashioned basketball fans partied the weekend away in a hip-hop hoop summit. The fun never stopped and the crowds never thinned for three days and four nights in a city that loves an outrageous time.

The weekend heated up Saturday when Boston's Gerald Green won the dunk contest with a much-needed injection of originality, and Miami's Jason Kapono was crowned the top 3-point shooter with a record-tying final performance.

By Sunday night, the glorified exhibition was all that remained - and the NBA's biggest stars rolled through a fairly nondescript contest featuring plenty of points and almost no defense. Some things don't change, even in Vegas.

"We got here at 2 o'clock," said Shaquille O'Neal, who played point guard and showed off a shimmy-shake move against Mehmet Okur on one fourth-quarter possession. "They came here to see a show, and they got a show."

Celebrities were all over the front row: Diddy, Jay-Z, Beyonc‚, Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Eva Longoria, Ludacris, Prince, Dave Chappelle, Chris Tucker, Cameron Diaz, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver. Paris Hilton and Barry Bonds were among those who couldn't get on the floor.

The West jumped to a big early lead with sharp outside shooting and solid ball movement. Perhaps Phoenix's Mike D'Antoni, the West coach, managed to inject a bit of his Suns' philosophy into his stars despite the injury absences of catalysts Steve Nash and Allen Iverson.

Bryant's team led by 33 points before coasting to victory during the East's 44-point fourth quarter. Stoudemire was outstanding in a performance that cemented his comeback from microfracture knee surgery, and Denver's Carmelo Anthony scored 20 points in his first All-Star game.

LeBron James, the 2006 MVP, led the East with 28 points. Orlando's Dwight Howard had 20 points and 12 assists, but his club had far too many mediocre performances - including O'Neal's 5-for-13 effort.

"Kobe Bryant is a guy I definitely love competing against, and he probably feels the same way about me," James said. "You always have fun on All-Star weekend. It's a time you get an opportunity to come together for the fans."

Though opinion remains divided on whether Las Vegas should have a permanent NBA team - or if it's even possible to find somebody to build an appropriate arena for a club-to-be-named-later - there seems to be little doubt this experiment in hedonism was a huge success.

Nobody throws a party like Vegas, and everyone who played in Sunday's grand finale seemed eager to come back to the desert soon.

"If they don't do it here every year," East guard Richard Hamilton said, "they should at least have it here every other year."

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Re: Vegas Vacation

I didn't watch a second of the game or any of the other crap from Vegas this weekend.


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