So here's the thing about All-Star weekend in Vegas: great beginning, disastrous ending.
Beyond the near 400 arrests and general feeling of chaos, there was me at the MGM Grand parking garage at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday night. I had stayed at a media party too late to begin with, having been sucked into a hilarious and heated debate between two beat writers over whether young players are better served by going to college or not. But as I came up on the MGM garage, I saw a barricaded exit and a line of cars backed up into the second level. There was a cop searching cars and the people in them, and a surly security guard who wouldn't tell me what was going on. Eventually, I learned that there had been a drive-by shooting in the garage, with bullets flying but, luckily, just one person hit and no fatalities.
So, of course, that means it's time for me to get going, considering I see some 30 cops lining up in military form nearby to begin the manhunt. I eventually get the car out - after cab rides to and from my hotel, three hours passed and no sleep - and then get to deal with the airport.
By 6 a.m., the boarding pass line for Southwest is already two hours long (I heard it was four hours long by 8 a.m.), with the mass of people stretching out of the airport and, as far as I could tell, ending somewhere near the Stratosphere. People were cutting in line and getting testy, including myself, and we could've used a few of those cops from back at the MGM to keep the peace. I met a man there, though, who was furious long before coming on this scene.
His All-Star tale was not a happy one. He estimates that he spent some $9,000 on the weekend, with $5,000 going to two tickets to the All-Star game on Sunday.
"I didn't enjoy a minute of it," he said. "I wanted to sell the tickets, but my wife would've killed me. But this is crazy. I've spent a lot of time in Vegas, doing karate competitions, and this is something else. It's awful. You'll never see me here again."
He was right. By the time the weekend was over, the local radio stations were practically offering free flights out of town if the hoops crowd would just take off. To the contrary, the congestion meant half the people on my flight didn't make it in time, and I spoke to a number of people who changed their flights to leave the next day or wound up being delayed all day in Sin City.
I'm no city planner, but Vegas sure didn't seem ready for this.
-- Sam Amick
If you haven't read the story about the man with the fake media credential, then stop here and scroll below for Chapter I: "This Guy Worked Under Cover."
As for Chapter II? Call it "Revenge of the Sterns." It turns out the NBA caught the man with the press plan, removing him from Thomas & Mack Arena before tipoff.
I can't say I'm surprised. I found it absolutely hilarious that the guy's attempt at being discreet actually included a camouflage hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses - both of which he wore indoors. He stuck out like a sore thumb, and drew even more attention by schmoozing with everyone from the catering folks in the media dining room to anyone else who would take his card. Give him this, though: he had fun.
"We made a move too fast and too soon, so we ended up getting escorted out of the arena before the doors even opened," he wrote in an e-mail in the days after. "It was/is absolutely hilarious. My people rolled when we got back to the hotel and we told them what transpired and how. Nonetheless, I had a great week and I'm glad I was put out of the arena, because if I was there and had to watch Kobe (Bryant) receive the MVP trophy I would have been even more ill than I was already."
-- Sam Amick