Okay, sorry I haven't written in forever. I was in Las Vegas from Friday to Monday, and I didn't have the internet the whole time, and I think it's the longest stretch I've ever gone offline since 1994. By Monday I was jonesing, bad. Hell, I even was looking forward to reading Peter King's column, I was in such a state. Anyway, the following will pretty much be a stream of consciousness rant, so for anyone who likes their blog reading material to have context or coherence or a point, I suggest you just move on to Matthew's fruity poetry.
I went to Vegas with moms, my restaurant addict sister, my best friend of 17 years, and this idiot friend (now ex-friend) named Roh. You ever had a friend where you hate every single fucking thing about them physically, mentally and emotionally, but you're just friends with them because you have a couple of things in common? That's me and Roh. I guess we became friends because we both like sports. Unfortunately, I've discovered the hard way that it's a lot more important for personalities to click than interests and hobbies. And I could never click with this clown from the beginning because he has no sense of humor, no class, no intelligence and no perspective. He is as close to a real life version of the Michael Scott character from The Office as there possibly could be, except much, much uglier. I would describe every tiny little thing about him that gets on my nerves, but this thing would go on for ten pages. So here's a blow by blow account of my Vegas trip, as much as I possibly can remember...
Friday: We got there by 9 AM. It was windy as shit, easily the worst weather day of the trip. It was actually pretty pleasant after that. I got a Spurs sweater and some sweat pants. We had lunch at this place in the Paris Hotel called "Mon Abi Gabi." Yes, I'm aware of the irony of the Tony-basher eating at a French place. Anyway, it was pretty good but I only finished half of my steak sandwich. We walked back to our hotel (New York, New York), showered and changed into nice clothes, played some blackjack (I think I was up 50 bucks) and settled down at the sportsbook to watch the Spurs game.
I made a small basketball bet, a 1st half parlay taking the Bulls as a pick-em over NJ, and the Spurs -3 against the Mavs. As you know San Antonio had no such problems with their end of the bargain, squashing Dallas by 11 at half, but somehow the Bulls blew an 18-0 lead against the Nets and were outscored by 23 in the last 16 minutes of the first half so I lost that bet. Did I mention that Roh, a Knicks fan was rooting for the Mavs? Well he was, despite having no money on the game. It was the first of many things he did that would slowly drive me insane. You don't root against a friend's bet in Vegas unless you have money on it yourself. Everybody knows this. It's as basic a man law as it gets. It's like rooting for other people at your table to lose at blackjack.
(HERE COMES THE ACTUAL GAME RECAP PART, BLINK AND YOU MIGHT MISS IT)
Now obviously the second half upset me as much as it must have upset all of you, but you know what? I'm not going to panic. I saw a lot of good signs out there. We only lost to them by five despite basically everyone not from Argentina playing like crap. Defensively we were very solid against their guards and Dirk had to hit a lot of insane shots to beat us. Frankly, I'd be more concerned if he went off against Elson. I'm still hoping that's our ace in the hole against Diggler in the playoffs, should we meet. He better be, because there's nothing else we can do against him.
Offensively, I know that Bones, Findog, and the Bean Burrito have all taken a lot of heat lately, but no matter how down on them you might be, it's pretty unrealistic to expect them to put up too many nights where they're a combined 3 of 20. As horribly as the team played, as soft as Tim was, as hardheaded as TWaRP was, we were one wide open Bowen 3 from his favorite spot away from sending it to OT. I saw our guys getting a lot more open looks than their guys, and at the end of the day that's all you can ask. We just gotta hit `em in May.
I think the result of the game could even be looked at as a good thing, because in its aftermath, if Ludden is to be believed, the coaches have decided that RoHo can no longer be relied upon, that Manu has to play more and Finley less, and that the team needs to explore trade options at small forward, which means the brass isn't too thrilled with Bruce either. Really, I think that's the biggest secret factor for why this team is struggling that nobody is talking about. Bowen has been such a bedrock for this team for so long that it seems like blasphemy to call him out, but as a starter he's been killing us for a while now. His defense is no longer effective or consistent enough to justify him being on the floor, especially with the spotty shot blocking efforts of Duncan and the big men du jour behind him.
More and more it's become apparent to me that Bruce should be a guy playing no more than 20 to 24 minutes a night of physical "sick-em" defense against the other's team's top guy, and really being used as an energetic pest who doesn't have to worry about pacing himself out on the floor. I mean, if Bowen starts the game guarding you, eventually you'll get used to him, but imagine if a guy like Fin started the game against a Josh Howard and he was feeling all good and comfy and then Bruces comes off the bench like his ass got shot with a beebee for the last eight minutes of a half. All of a sudden Bruce's 92 mph fastball will seem like 112 mph compared to Finley's 83 mph slop. You follow?
Whatever, like I said, I won't freak out about Dirk's night until I see him do it against Elson, and I know Tim and a couple of other guys will play a lot better when it counts. The Mavs can be had, I'm certain of it. I still think they were better last year. As long as Tim plays him to a statistical stand-off, we should be able to win because we have the better backcourt, I believe. Right now the Mavs are playing balls out, just like the Pistons were last year at this time. The Spurs have a couple other gears they can go to.
Your 3 Stars
3. Tony Parker- By default. He doesn't really deserve it, but nobody else does either. He played a lot better in the second half than the first, to his credit.
2. Fabricio Oberto- I couldn't watch the game with sound, so if anybody can fill me in as to why he didn't play in the second half after going 7 for 7 in the first half, I'd love to hear it. I'ver heard some mumblings about how we went small because the Mavs went small, but that can't be the real reason because if it was I'd be screaming right now.
1. Manu Ginobili- It's getting to be kind of an annoying trend where he's our best player when we lose. It's like he'll only score a lot when Tim and Tony don't show up at all, and when Manu's hot they don't feel the need to pick it up themselves. First Houston, then Minny, now this. I'll have more to say about this a few pages down the road. Teaser alert.
Record: 23-11 Streak: L-3 (yuck).
Up Next: @ Memphis Grizzlies
I hear Tony won't play in this game. How oh how will we possibly manage to score any points without a scoring point guard? I'm very concerned.
Okay, back to Friday night...
So after the game we ate at this Wolfgang Puck restaurant. This guy is so freakin' overrated. This is the second place of his I've gone to (the first was the Spago café) and neither one was very good. My salmon was dry and way overpriced. The buffalo wing appetizer was quite scrumptious on the other hand and looking back on it, I should have just ordered that as my entrée.
Here's the part of the column you've been waiting for... after dinner me and my two friends went to a strip club. It'd been forever since I'd been to one. The cabbie asked us if we wanted topless or all nude, and since we're classy guys, we chose the latter. We would discover this would be a huge mistake since apparently the topless places aren't only cheaper, but they offer much more selection and much hotter women.
The place we wound up going was called "The Diamond Cabaret." We got there at 11 and it was like a morgue, with breasts. No guys were in there. The cover was $40, but we were told the second we got in that we'd have to pay another $20 for "free drinks and one free lap dance with a girl of your choice." Except the only drinks they served were soda and water and the lap dance would be nothing but a girl bugging you to spend way more money on her.
So we sit down and these skanky hos are all up in our business, asking us for dances. We're quickly running out of polite ways to say no like, "We just got here" "I'm trying to pace myself" and "Maybe later" but they're like these used car salesmen, refusing to take no for an answer. It was getting awkward for a while. One girl got so mad at us for saying no that as she was leaving she ordered us to tip a minimum of three dollars to each stage performer because "they're worth it." We would have left right then and there, but nobody really felt like eating the 60 bucks. Anyway, after we fended off the initial rush of three or four of these persistent banshees, the word got out that we weren't big spenders and we were pretty much left alone for the next half hour.
Then out of nowhere appeared this wondrous creature named "Alexis" came to the stage. All of a sudden I forgot all about the bitchy skanks and the cover charge. This girl changed everything. I worked adjacently to a strip club in San Francisco for over four years, so I know way too much about this industry. For instance, I knew which clubs in The City paid off the cops so the girls could prostitute themselves and which didn't. One such club that didn't was the Crazy Horse where only three or four hot girls ever worked at any one time and of those all but one had weaknesses. Two of them had bad attitudes or crappy boob jobs. A couple others just gave lousy dances. Only one, this French girl named "Justine" (it was actually Florence) had the looks, the personality, and gave a quality dance. What she didn't have was a humongous rack. Don't get me wrong, it was nice and most importantly real, it just wasn't anything worth writing home about. So she can't get a perfect grade, you know?
Alexis on the other hand was perhaps the first solid 5 out of 5 I've ever run into in the stripping industry. Pretty face, great body, very friendly personality, good dance, and big real breasts. This was perfection on the scale of The Sickness in the '05 playoffs. And yes, that analogy was written just so this site could be described as a gay bath house some more. Anyway, I wish I had a picture of her, but alas, nobody in our party had a cell phone camera. I'm trying to think who she looks like, but nobody comes to mind. The good news is that the club is working on its web site so hopefully within a month or so, I can post a link to their gallery. Still, I wondered for a long time what such a goddess was doing hanging around such filth when surely she should be working at some place more prestigious like Scores or the Spearmint Rhino the two famous topless clubs in town. Eventually I came up with the theory that like Justine in the Crazyhorse, Alexis figured she'd rather be the Alpha Queen of a dump than one of many dazzlers in a busy club. So really, she's like Joe Johnson more than Manu.
Just trust me here when I tell you it took all the willpower I had to get just the one dance from her. Oh and I really didn't go there with a lot of cash on me, so that helped. I did deftly and subtly inquire as to what kind of services Alexis would provide if money wasn't an object and predictably, she wouldn't get into specifics. That's a 99% probability of a rip off experience waiting to happen, so in all likelihood, I suspect I'll never see her again, but in case any of you are in the neighborhood, feel free to look her up. And down. And up again.
Anyway, I ended up blowing about 140 in the club after the cover, one $50 dance, various stage tipping and my share of the cab rides. To top off a perfect evening, when we got back to the hotel I was a bit too dizzy with love to think straight, so I went downstairs to play blackjack and blew 200 bucks.
Saturday Woke up 9ish and right away there was infighting between the three amigos over shower and bathroom privileges. Roh took like a 20 minute shower despite me explaining to him we were in a hurry. My sister wanted us to try this gourmet burger place in Mandalay Bay and it took forever, but I have to say that overall, it was probably the best meal we had the whole trip. They've got this one burger one the menu this weird ass fois gras thing that costs like $60. Their standard, Black Angus burgers cost only$12, plus extra for toppings and fries. I wish I was kidding. My best friend had this Kobe beef burger for like $20, and since this was the meal that we told moms we'd treat, the bill came out to like $120 for the five of us, so I was out another fifty. Have I mentioned that Vegas is kind of a rip off town?
Anyway, we made it to the sportsbook in time for the Colts-Chiefs game. I reasoned that the Colts would cover because they were 8-0 at home, Herm Edwards was on the road, and that Indy would simply put everyone at the line and make Trent Green beat them. As it turned out, that's exactly what happened, although I didn't foresee either QB playing quite as crappy as they did. I had $20 on Indy -7 and the under, so I made 50 for that, and I think I won another ten bucks on taking the Colts to cover the 2nd half spread as well. Sadly this would pretty much be the highlight of my football wagering for the weekend.
The second game that night was Dallas at Seattle, and as you probably know that one ended up being quite bizarre. Not only are the Cowboys my least favorite team, but they also happen to be Roh's favorites. So right away there was a lot of tension there. I had a small first half bet on the Seahawks at -1.5 and they were winning most of the first half, so we were talking lots of trash. Roh got pissed very early when it was clear that we were mocking the incompetence of both teams equally. Seriously the only reason it was a close game was because both teams are equally terrible. It was like watching a one-on-one duel between Emmanuel Lewis and Gary Coleman.
Early on in the game I cracked on Julius Jones getting stuffed for a three yard gain, and this dude responded, I swear to god, "It was four yards, so eat a dick." I laughed my ass off for like two minutes straight at how serious he was taking everything and of course the couple in front of us were mortified so they left immediately. Late in the half the Seahawks were up 6-3, but the Cowboys were driving. I also had a five buck prop bet on Jason Witten of the `Boys scoring the first TD of the game, at 14 to 1 odds, so I made it very clear to Roh that I wouldn't mind losing my first half bet as long as Witten scored the touchdown. The asshole actually told me he'd rather have the half end 6-6 so I lose both bets. So of course Witten gets this long catch on fourth down and it looks like he's going to score...
and he gets tripped up at the 2. Oh man I was so close. Roh laughed at me and it was pretty obvious he was glad Witten didn't score. So I called him an asshole and he called me a motherfucker three times. I was so close to kicking his ass right then and there but I didn't because 1) I didn't want to embarrass my friend and get kicked out of the casino 2) I was afraid if I started whaling on this dude I'd never stop and 3) he's the kind of weenie who would sue me instead of taking his whoopin' like a man.
I think I recouped my losses at the blackjack table at the start of the second half and I took great delight in watching the Cowboys blow the game late. The absolute best part was that there was this idiot Dallas fan at the sportsbook who thought that one ref had it out for the Cowboys because he was the one announcing all the penalties. Nobody explained to him that only the head ref has the microphone so he declares all the infractions. Oh, also I was pleased to see T.O. finish with two catches against a Seahawks squad missing both starting corners. Clutch.
Anyway, after the game Roh was too depressed/cheap to join us for dinner at some Spanish place that my sister had picked out, so he ate fast food pizza while we took a cab to the other side of the strip. Dinner was pretty good (especially since I didn't have to pay for it) and very relaxing since the bonehead wasn't there ruining everyone's time. We even found a hotel nearby for us to get a room in for Sunday night since we needed one, so everything was working out pretty well. Later my best friend, my mom and I went back to the MGM and played 2-4 Hold `Em for a couple of hours. Roh refused to join us because he was chickenshit. None of us really had much luck with the cards and I think I actually went 15 straight hands without playing at one point. The big winner at our table was this guy who constantly bet out of turn, bet the wrong amount, or didn't know when to check or call or fold. But he kept winning and winning so eventually I surmised that it was all a diabolical act and the guy was playing opossum (much like your Spurs against Dallas) and luring us in. Then this other guy showed up, some Brit, and he was totally wasted, so now we had two guys playing very slow and out of turn and betting wrong. This dealer lost all patience with them and was rude and insulting to the point that the rest of us felt uncomfortable. I held out for like three hours, but eventually I lost a hundred bucks. I told the floor manager about the dealer because I felt she was way out of line, and it didn't even involve me since my hands were crummy all night.
And then I proceeded to make it back in blackjack in like eight minutes, so I felt pretty dumb about the whole experience afterward.
I couldn't fall asleep so I had a late night chat with Roh about what an asshole he was that day and also taught him the ins and outs of playing blackjack. The dude was so dumb that I had to teach him why splitting "5s" was a bad idea. It literally took him an hour to understand the basics of why one doesn't hit on anything about 11 when the dealer has a 3, 4, 5, or 6. I'm still not sure he's got it. The moral of the story was that the three hour conversation was a waste because not only did Roh not play blackjack the whole time he was in Vegas, but he still acted like an asshole the rest of the time. Just as well I suppose. I'd be pretty scared to play with him on a blackjack table. Then again, it'd be neat to say I was a witness to a guy splitting sixes against a face card.
In fact, that reminds me, I played with a lot of retarded people at the blackjack tables. On Friday night it one guy hit two separate times when he had 14, once with the dealer showing a 6, once with a 4. He busted both times. When the dealer advised him not to do it, he replied, "I'm gambling." No sir, you're losing. If you were gambling you'd play according to the proper percentages and let luck decide your fate afterward. Then this other guy to my right had a pair of eights against the dealer's 7. He didn't split them, he didn't hold them. Either action would have been fine. No, this genius hit on them. And promptly busted us all. The yin to Friday's yang came on Saturday night when I played with THE CONSERVATIVE GUY. This dude stayed on 12 and 13 repeatedly no matter what the dealer had. I was going out of my mind. If you're so scared of busting, why gamble? Even though I won a few hands, I was terrified the whole time and got the hell out of there as soon as I made my poker losses back.
Sunday We kind of overslept and were in a big rush to make it to MGM on time for the Jets-Pats game. As it turned out, it would have been better if we'd been a bit late, because Ro got hosed in his Jets +6 bet in the 1st half when the Pats scored to make it 17-10 very late in the half. I just had them for +9.5 for the game, but I sensed that the game would take a turn for the worse for New York, so I hedged my bet by taking the Pats -3 in the second half for half of my original bet. The only way I could lose both was if New England won by exactly ten points. It took 20 minutes to explain this to Roh.
The Eagles game was very crappy, then very fun, then crappy again, and then fun. Roh lost a lot of money. He bet on seven different guys to score the first touchdown. None of them did. He bet on the over. He bet on the Eagles -7. I won like eight bucks, winning my half time bet, but losing the second half one. At this point Roh basically stopped speaking to us because he was "sick." We got some dinner at a decent Mexican place at the MGM, said our good byes to mom and sis, then took a cab to our new hotel. Roh went to bed at 8 pm and me and my friend watched the animated comedies on Fox, highlighted by the superb Ali Williams news segment on "Family Guy," and were in bed by 11:30. I'm serious, that was our whole Sunday.
IS MANU THE 11TH BEST PLAYER IN THE NBA?
I saw the Spurs beat the Grizz without Tony and Manu went for a season high 34. I'm sure the two things aren't the least bit coincidental, really. I kept watching SportsCenter over and over again, but they never showed the highlights of the game. I guess these things happen when nobody on your roster slaps bitches around or makes a stupid rap album. Oh. Wait. Anyway, today I did some digging around on the computer and came upon some neat-o numbers.
According to John Hollinger's PER formula, Manu is, at this very moment, the 11th best player in the league. See?. Right below Kobe and above Nash. Now I know what you're thinking. Any statistical formula that has Manu ranked above the reigning two-time MVP and other such studs as Amare, Dwight Howard, Michael Redd, Chauncey Billups, Paul Pierce, and of course Le Trou Noir clearly has to be absurd. And on the surface I tend to agree. But this Hollinger fellow has been around for a while now, he's written many books, and I believe his PER is viewed in the same regard as OPS was by the baseball community a decade ago. So there may be something to it. (PS, Tim is 5th, Tony is 21st).
All I know is that The Hustlemaker is the 3rd rated SG in the league, behind Flash and Kobe, he's averaging a career high in points, in free throw % and in 3 point shooting, and he's never been better defensively. Seriously if he doesn't get at least a second team spot on the all defensive team this year, the award is a joke. It's gotten to the point where he changes games from our end of the floor on a more regular basis than Timmy does. Iverson's addition to the Western Conference pretty much rules out any shot Manu (or Tony) had for the all-star team, but it's not inconceivable that both Bones and the Sickness get invited to Sin City for the three point shoot out.
The bottom line is that Manu right now is having his career season, and most folks are too stupid to notice because he's not aslammin' and a jammin'. Wake up people. Oh, and he's also leading the Spurs in something called "Roland Rating" according to 82games.com. The engineer could explain to you what the hell that means. He's also got a higher +/- than anybody on the team other than Duncan, despite playing far fewer minutes than Tony or Bruce. But you know, he's no Kevin Martin.
Monday Woke up, took another cab to Mandalay Bay, ate lunch at the House of Blues, (pretty decent) dropped Roh off at the sportsbook where he could watch ESPN for four straight hours before the NCAA Championship Game. I played more blackjack, but my luck finally ran out and I lost like 300 dollars. I blame Roh's negative karma. The guy had like a black cloud hanging on top of him the whole night and eventually it brought everyone else down. He never wanted to do anything and was just pulling this weak hypochondriac drama queen bullshit.
In the BCS championship game both me and my friend bet on Ohio State. Roh spent the whole time rooting for Florida (despite being a University of Miami fan, that's right he roots for the Cowboys in the NFL, the Yankees in baseball, and Duh U in college football, draw your own therapeutic conclusions) despite the fact that he had no money on the game. Like I said, total asshole. Probably the only reason the Gators won is because he didn't bet on them. I tested a theory that his awful energy was affecting my gambling by going back to the blackjack tables after he left our presence and of course I won four straight bets. I left Vegas down about 600 bucks, 300 for gambling, 300 for food/cabs/hotels/strip club, and I've officially stopped being friends with Roh.
It's good to be back home.