Jun 25, 2008
Jun 23, 2008
Jun 20, 2008
Jun 17, 2008
Special apologies to mom and dad.
Day one was highlighted by the staggered arrivals of the 13 participants of our little experiment in terror. I was the first person in, meeting up with Pretty Boy (PB) at Las Vegas’ McCarran airport. He is apparently bringing back the tie clip. I am forced to comment on it.
We meet up with PB’s parents who ferry us to the hotel, which is explained to me to be named TheHotel. Is that weird to anyone but me? Anyway, after checking into the first of the three rooms we’d be descending upon, we are greeted by three of PB’s friends from LA: FBJ, Silent Bob, and BigJ. We get to the room where these three arrivals reveal 6 handles of vodka and two cases of red bull.
So, the drinks are flowing, and I’m in the awkward position of trying to find common ground amongst four friends who have known each other their entire lives. They start making fun of PB’s tie clip. I am going to fit in great.
So, we sequester ourselves in the room as the rest of the group trickles in, drinking and watching Tiger remind us why he runs Torrey Pines, and Phil remind us why he’s Phil. Once everyone is accounted for, we hit the Mandalay floor as one big group. Some go to craps, others to blackjack, but at this point, everyone is FAIRLY sure of where the others are. This will not last.
At approximately 2 am local time, FBJ and myself are killing a blackjack table, making friends with the pit boss, doubling down in ridiculous situations, ordering vodka-red bull like we owned stock in Stoli, and actually being cheered. Being a narcissist, I love it, and find the adulation addictive. Offhandedly, we realize we haven’t seen anyone we know in God knows how long, and decide to go exploring for our friends. After cashing out, we start calling our friends, to no avail. 2 hours in Vegas with everyone there, and no way to tell where anyone is. Awesome. At this point, the night firmly divides our party into two loosely defined groups: Team Gamble, and Team Oh My God.
FBJ, and I finally get in touch with everyone else, who apparently left the Mandalay for a strip club. There had been an ‘incident’ and everyone headed to a club somewhere down the strip. Agreeing to meet them at the club, we get a cab and are on our way.
Arriving, a quick glance tells me that things aren’t going as well as possible. PB, Suit, MVP, and Custou are standing in a sea of people, waiting for some over-steroided, over-gelled, under-evolved gorilla to look at them, and wave them in. Someone suggests using shiny objects to distract them, and sneak in. PB’s tie clip is deemed not shiny enough. Bored, we head to gamble some more, and FBJ and I sit at a blackjack table, Suit and PB wanting to play craps. I should have played craps.
Our first dealer was an older black man, named JR, he was from Texas, and he loved it when we were winning. In a related story, we loved him. We’re living it up, talking about the trip so far, and he’s telling us about the craziest stuff he’s seen in his 20 years in Vegas. Everyone is having fun. This will not last. Eventually, his shift ends, and we tip him, and welcome our new dealer.
Jessica. Or, as I would later affectionately call her, The Axe-Murderer.
A small, Asian woman, whose name tag claimed she was from China. Unless China opened up a wing in Hell, I don’t believe it.
She seemed to take pleasure watching us lose. We double down on 10, she deals us a 2. We hold at 17, she turns over 18. Instead of the good nature that JR had engendered, her open, blatant and repeated abuse of FBJ and myself drove us to saying some meaner things.
- "You pick up drifters just to kill them, don't you?
- "Do you have children?" (She nods.) "They hate you."
- "I swear to God, if you string out blackjack here, I will find whatever local shack you live in, handcuff you to the door knob, and burn it to the ground."
(7 card black jack.)
"Unbelievable. How do you sleep at night? STOP SMILING AT ME!!!"
Getting back together with the craps players (read: winners), we head to the Bellagio for more gambling. Oh good. Walking in, I notice things are MUCH more higher priced than Bill’s. Like 100 dollar minimum blackjack tables higher. Figuring I’m not going to play anything here, I go to watch the others play craps, and finally look at my cell phone to see the time. Okay, 5:00…which is 8:00 Atlanta time. Seeing as how I had gotten up at 6 Friday morning, and had been drinking (okay, drunk) since I got on the plane at 1, my little math problem was turning into a consciousness problem. Deciding that discretion is the better part of valor, I head back to the hotel, to attempt to pass out. Getting out of the cab at TheHotel (I feel pretentious just writing that), the concierge opens the door, and tells me good morning. My reply?
“Don’t do that. Say hello, say welcome back, just don’t remind me further that it’s morning. I know the sun is coming up. I know that I’m a degenerate. Why belabor the point?”
“Hello, welcome back sir.”
Apparently, I’m not the first idiot to stumble home at 5:25. Who knew?
Oh, and as far as sleeping went? Yeah, the 40-something Vodka/Red Bulls doing laps through my circulatory system like it was the damn Daytona 500 had other ideas. Unless you count the four times my heart pretty much gave out, I achieved nothing resembling an REM cycle on the couch in our suite.
The rest of Team Gamble stay at the Bellagio until PB can’t count to 10. Apparently, 10 was the minimum bet at the craps table and he’s throwing down 7 at a time. The exchange with the Bellgio employee was related to me as such:
BE: Sir, 10 is the minimum.
PB: That’s my bet.
BE: Sir, that is only 7. 10 is the minimum.
PB: It’s my money, I’ll do what I want.
BE: Have a good evening sir.
He is later spotted wandering the halls, demanding to be taken the TheHotel, when a kind passer-by tells him he is in the Bellagio, and that TheHotel is further down the strip. PB thought he was stumbling through Mandalay Bay. Good times.
I am rudely awakened 3 hours later by Silent Bob leaving the suite to go watch soccer. Apparently, he went to bed when he couldn’t find anyone. Silent Bob is regarded a genius in my eyes. Before he goes to watch whatever Nazi-Ball match of the morning was, he regales me with the story of Team Oh My God:
The incident at the strip club turned out to be the demanding that my friends pay a cover, so most of them left. Not BigJ and SBack. They smooth talked their way in, and that’s where there problems began. Inside, they spilt a bottle of Grey Goose, and shared the tab for numerous dances. And just dances. My friends may be degenerates, but they did not fornicate with strippers…no matter how much money they spent. The next morning was highlighted by a note from PB’s mom slid under the door of our suite.
7:30 BigJ was passed out in the hall. We took him into our room at 7:30 am.
Meeting up with SBack later, I got some details on the evening, but the thing he said last is what stuck with me the most.
“So, fun night, how much did it run ya’ll?”
SBack reads text message.
“Apparently, a lot. I guess my ATM card was frozen, so BigJ paid, and I owe him half.”
“How much is half?” (Keep in mind, from what he told me, I thought he couldn’t owe THAT much.)
“A grand.” (I was wrong.)
Basically, the first night either went well, (crap-playing jerks), alright or God awful. I fall into alright by process of elimination, but wow.
Jun 14, 2008
The only reason we left is someone saying offhandedly that it was 5:15...and then I was like a little kid who doesn't know he's hurt until he sees the cut. I think I'm bleeding.
Jun 13, 2008
It’s really here. Months of planning, weeks of hoping, and thousands of mocking emails later, I’m finally on my way to Vegas. If the beginning of a trip is any indication, this is going to be a helluva work weekend, men (thank you Rich Skrosky). By 10 am, I had gotten someone to watch Thor (the oh look, a sports dog), I had (reasonably) cleaned up, I had posted a video on the blog of the miraculous Celtics comeback the night before, and I was fully packed. I had an uneventful MARTA ride to the airport, and got through security smoothly.
So far, so good.
Then, the proverbial other shoe: I get to my SUPER crowded gate, and brace myself for 4 hours of bumping elbows with someone who never manages to be an attractive girl, being unable to sleep, with no leg room and getting hit with the beverage cart, since I like aisle seats.
Once they flight attendants lock the doors, I finally exhale: not only had I forgotten that I had booked an exit row seat (planning ahead? Me?), but the flight is no where near full. To the point that I have the whole exit row on my side to myself. After the flight attendant gives the exit row spiel to the couple across the aisle, she turns too me and asks if I’ve been listening. I say yes, though I hadn’t, and she decides to quiz me. What she didn’t know is that I’ve been flying since I was about 4, and can do flight attendant spiels in my sleep. After hitting the high notes of the exit row speech, she tells me that earned one free drink. A short debate later, and Daniel is drinking free all the way to Vegas.
All in all, off to a good start.
Well, who can really say they saw that coming? By the end of the first half, I was sending taunting text messages to my Bostonian friends, and congratulatory ones to my friends who either live in LALA Land, or bleed the purple and gold. 24 minutes later, I was being called an idiot by one camp and a jinx by the other. Game 4 unfolded in a way that anyone watching this series would not believe. Not only was Lamar Odom asserting himself, not only did the Celtics look flat and lifeless, not only did Kobe seem to be channeling the toughest part of MJ’s game, not only did Doc Rivers seem ready to finally melt down, not only…sorry, I just got dizzy trying to remember the first half, it feels like it was so long ago.
One of the prevailing subplots of the first three games of this series was the fact that Lamar Odom appeared to be having a panic attack every time he took the floor. There are times where a player can get caught up in a big moment, and there are times when a player enters a full on coma upon realizing the size of the moment. Lamar Odom was a snapshot of the latter situation. It got so bad that Phil Jackson called him in the Game 2 press conference (one of the Zen Master’s favorite tactics) and Lamar responded with a big egg in Game 3. Pretty much anyone commentating on the series agreed that they would have to depend on someone else stepping up to be the third player for the Lakers, but that first half, the first 12 minutes in particular, seemed to quiet the doubters…
Anyone watching the Celtics all playoffs can easily agree that they have not looked their best at all times. Letting Atlanta push them to seven, letting Cleveland push them to seven, some poorly executed games against the Pistons, there have been some readily apparent chinks in the armor of the 66 win Celtics. But, throughout all the stumbles (some would say growing pains), and line up juggling by their ‘coach’ (more on him later), this was a team that appeared to be trying their best, and had everyone engaged and ready to play. This was not the case in the fist half of Game 4…the Celtics didn’t just look unengaged, they looked bored…
Too many comparisons had been made between the Mamba and His Airness. All throughout his career, Kobe’s ability has garnered comparisons, fair or unfair, to the G.O.A.T., but his on the court ability and dedication seemed to allow them. This season (after attempting to hold the franchise hostage) and these playoffs showed that Kobe was on his way to mastering Jordan’s method of getting his teammates comfortable by letting them contribute early, that way, everyone is scoring, everyone is more invested in the game, and feels more responsible for the win. Then, late in the game, or whenever it was needed, Jordan would take over, but be flanked by a truly inspired and motivated supporting cast. It really looked like Kobe had mastered the last, hardest part of MJ23’s game…
It had to happen. The other shoe just had to drop. After a more than adequate performance in the regular season, it appeared that the stage had finally gotten to Doc. All playoffs, he had made questionable decisions from altering his rotation (alienating bench players who had been so pivitol too the 66 wins ) to straight up bad personnel decisions (lack of Leon Powe in Game 3/Sam Cassell???). It looked like the pressure of the first three rounds, and roughly 115 games thus far finally got to him in the first half of Game 4,as he picked up an early tech (correctly) arguing a non-call on Mamba. Sure, he had looked okay against Mike Woodson, Mike James, and Flip Saunders (not exactly a coaching ‘Murderers Row’), but going head to head with the Zen Master seemed to finally have gotten to him…
Then the second half happened.
Lamar vanished, the Celtics woke up, Kobe erased any MJ comparisons EVER, and Doc stepped up higher than I even thought possible.
Odom poured in a measly four points after the break, and found himself back on the bench – and presumably, Phil’s doghouse – while the Celts were making their historical run in the third and fourth quarters. Maybe someone reminded him this was the finals, and he was supposed to be acting like a stroke patient, who knows.
The Celtics came alive. They were running all over the place, grabbing rebounds, blocking shots, beating people off the dribble. Jesus Shuttlesworth (who is easily the series MVP thus far) and Paul Pierce took the lead as far as their intensity, and the rest of the squad followed in kind. Even little-used reserve Tony Allen kept the energy level high when he got the call up off of the bench.
Kobe blew it. Like I’ve said before, the only players in professional team sports who pick up Ws and Ls are pitchers and hockey goalies, but Kobe should be handed a big, scarlet L after that performance. Not only did he blow the game by not recognizing how much his team needed him, and by taking over accordingly, he blew any shots he had at being the true heir to the throne. It goes without seeing that Michael Jordan never blew a 24 point lead in the Finals (mostly because Game 4 was the first time this has ever happened), but he would never have allowed it to start to happen. I thought, honestly, if the Lake Show can hold home court, then you get bloodthirsty Kobe in Boston, and he’d close them out the first chance he got, like he did to the Spurs. Whoops.
I cannot believe I’m writing this. Doc Rivers outcoached Phil Jackson. It looks wrong, just sitting there staring back at me. But, it’s true. Doc Rivers went small, surrounding KG with shooters, forcing the Lakers to rotate quickly to even keep up with the ball movement. And they couldn’t do it. Did Phil go to his bench, find a better combination to slow or stop Boston’s shooters? No. He entered Zen mode, and watched a truly historic collapse happen IN Staples.
Now, the series can end Sunday in LALA Land…and it makes no sense at all.
Jun 10, 2008
I would contend that Tim Legler is an idiot.
EDIT: I know this guy has no credibility, but after the things I've seen in my 22 (damn near 23) years as an NBA fan, his explanation of what happened a few years back in the Kings/Lakers series makes scary amounts of sense. Read it.
- They made Leon Powe look like '95 Shaq. Unacceptable.
- The Lakers did nothing resembling winning basketball Sunday night; I'm embarrassed to say I picked them. Just abysmal.
- Big ups to Ken Griffey Junior.
- Vinny Del Negro is an NBA head coach. I'll let that sink in.
- Cedric Benson got cut...Mack Brown's track record with running backs continues!
- Ray Allen will heretofore be referred to as Jesus Shuttlesworth. He's re-earned the right.
- Chipper Jones will finish with an .800 average, and at least 75 home runs. Just ask the Atlanta media, dey know...
- Paul Pierce faked it.
- Garnett...the paint...please...it's the only hope I have left. I am going to die of a bad-basketball-aneurysm if this man doesn't start taking people into the post and dominating them WITH POST MOVES. 18 foot jumpers and fadeaways ARE NOT post moves.
- Helluva 2013 HOF class we've got shaping up...Favre & Sapp & Strahan & McNair...with Ogden and Seau likely close behind. It'll be crowded in Canton that day.
- They say that the cynic knows the price of everything, and the cost of nothing...well, they're right. In a weekend where we saw a presumptive Triple Crown racehorse not finish the race because of unexplained reasons (mob involvement), the Lakers shoot 28 fewer free throws because of unexplained reasons (mob involvement) and Rick Reilly debut on the four letter because of unexplained reasons (c'mon...), certain questions about the integrity of sports have to be raised.
Why does everyone seem to ignore the OBVIOUS implications of a 38-1 horse winning the race, when the only reason horse racing exists is for gambling?
How can an NBA team shoot so few free throws, play so badly, and STILL lose by 2?
Why do I cancel an SI subscription, only to be reintroduced to Reilly on ESPN.com?
Obviously life isn't fair, and someone is out to get me.
Jun 8, 2008
- Doc Rivers apparently thinks the best way to stop Kobe Bryant is to keep him out of the lane and make him shoot jumpers. Good idea plagerizing Pop and the Spurs, since he's a MUCH better coach than Rivers, but bad idea because Kobe just merked the Spurs in 5 games.
- The rebounding edge held by the Celts will be negligable because of Kobe's newfound accuracy.
- I think that we've proven that depending on Ray Allen to play like Jesus Shuttlesworth to win playoff games is a bad idea.
- Sam Cassell played a major role in the game one win. If that holds up, I'll eat my hat.
- "No means no" is the new "Beat LA". What has the world come to?
- Someone remind Gasol that this is the NBA Finals and to wake up. Thanks.
- If Garnett comes into the lane to score points, it will be the first time. I mean, honestly, if you're the biggest, most dominant player in a series, why would you settle for 18-footers, and fadeaways, securing only two dunks when you're being guarded alternatly by Pau Gasol (defensive sieve), Lamar Odom (smaller than you), and Ronnie Turiaf (Ronnie Turiaf!)? You wouldn't. And neither should he.
STILL Lakers in 5...