Educated in Vegas
Here are 10 things I learned during All-Star Weekend
Posted: Wednesday February 21, 2007 3:44PM; Updated: Wednesday February 21, 2007 3:44PM
We came, we saw, we gambled, we drank. The NBA's 2007 version of All-Star Weekend has come and gone, and those of us who lived through are all better off for the experience. The weekend began Friday morning, when I was standing at the baggage claim at McCarran Airport in Vegas and heard the following announcement: "Will the Laker Girls please report to the information counter?" Then, after the game ended Sunday night, Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman hit the interview room with two showgirls, one of whom accidentally had an important body part showing. (If you didn't think sportswriters were agile, you should have seen some of them moving at breakneck speed when word of that sighting spread.)
Was Vegas overcrowded? Sure. But every All-Star Game I've been to has been overcrowded. Those of us in Vegas sucked it up and did our best to survive. And while we were there, we learned 10 sure things at All-Star Weekend 2007...
1. Gilbert Arenas may be the greatest man alive. Not only did he do the dunk off the trampoline, but he blogged the heck out of the weekend, writing over 30 posts for his blog on NBA.com. And some of them are pure genius. For example, Gilbert says he urged West coach Eddie Jordan to make sure Joe Johnson got plenty of playing time: "I didn't want him thinking in the timeouts during the game, 'Oh man, I can't wait till they come to town,' and then when we play them he'll be running a bunch of iso's. I know how that feels because I did it last year."
2. When you see an All-Star chugging back shots the night before the All-Star Game, it is a safe bet that guy will not have a big game the next evening.
3. Always bet on Barkley.
4. Las Vegas is absolutely ready to host an NBA franchise, with more than enough infrastructure in place. David Stern told reporters he wouldn't want to have another All-Star Game at the Thomas & Mack center, but it seems fine for regular season NBA games. NBA betting may go off the boards, but the home team in Vegas is going to have an incredible home-court advantage. You saw how exhausted all the NBA players looked on Sunday? Just imagine if half of them stayed in and rested before a game.
5. It's taken a year and a half, but Isiah Thomas finally found a star in David Lee. He can't shoot, sure, but Lee always plays hard, as evidenced by his 14-for-14 line (and black eye) during the Rookie/Sophomore Game. Hang on to this one, Zeke.
6. Vince Carter is playing out the string. Those of us who've watched him closely always wondered how Vince could play regular season games with such insouciance and then turn it up for All-Star Weekend. Well, this year he couldn't even get it going during All-Star. He's spent the year looking sour and throwing up fadeaway jumpers, and this in an opt-out year; Vince could opt-out of his contract this summer and become a free agent or stick with it and make $16.4 million next season. If anyone thinks any team is going to pay Vince that much scratch, you should stay away from the tables in Vegas.
7. I don't know any of the Maloof family, but after spending Saturday night in the Moon nightclub in the Playboy Tower, I'd really like to get to know the Maloof family. They do it right. And now I know what it must have been like to be of age during the '80s.
8. Dunks in the dunk contest matter. Dwight Howard's attempt where he popped a sticker on the backboard was cute, but the actual dunk itself was incredibly lackluster; Dwight paid a price for that and didn't even advance to the second round. Gerald Green gave his dunks the extra effort, throwing in a windmill as he soared over that table.
9. New Orleans should start getting ready now. Next year's game will be in N'awlins. The last time I was there, just a few months ago, there still weren't enough people around that restaurants were able to stay open late. Hopefully the city will have bounced back enough next year to be able to handle the All-Star rush.
10. Kobe Bryant always comes to play. Before the game started, several of us in the press box took bets (hey, it was Vegas) on who would win the All-Star MVP, and my money went directly to Kobe. While everyone else was spotted out and about at clubs all weekend, there were curiously few KB24 sightings. Sure enough, he showed up rested and ready and won the battle for headlines. Which is something he's always been pretty good at anyway.
Lang Whitaker is the online editor of SLAM magazine and writes daily at SLAMonline.com.