Thursday, July 12, 2012 | 4:04 p.m.
Editor’s Note: While Robin Leach takes his traditional summer vacation under the Tuscan sun in Italy, many of our Strip personalities have stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. Our thanks to them all. We continue with an inside look at the stars and the teams in this year’s NBA Summer League that starts Friday at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion at UNLV.
Weeeeeeeee’re baaaaaaccckkkk!!! Hello, Las Vegas, from the guys who are once again bringing back the NBA Summer League (Friday through July 22) after a brief but painful hiatus last year -- can somebody say strike or lockout?!
The fun begins Friday in Cox Pavilion at 1 p.m., and from the pre-order ticket requests, it’s obvious that we aren’t the only ones who missed the manic 10 days of harmonic basketball convergence. Las Vegas becomes the throbbing heartbeat of the pro basketball world in attendance and deals.
And there’s at least one silver lining from last year’s lockout, as a valued-added bonus: We’ll be featuring two No. 1 overall picks for your viewing pleasure: Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who was this year’s Rookie of the Year, and Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Hornets. Not to mention almost all of the other No. 1 picks from the past two drafts. It’s like having a box of your favorite rookie trading cards come to life.
The 2012 version will feature a record-breaking 60 games in 10 days at no additional cost from our last league, $25 for adults and $15 for kids (air conditioning and parking included). That alone is a feat, making the NBA Summer League one of the best entertainment bargains in Las Vegas.
Games in the Thomas & Mack Center begin Sunday instead of our normal Monday because we’re featuring a record-breaking 24 teams. Additionally, there will of course be the usual up-close-and-personal autograph signings, not to mention the chance of bumping into famous basketball people in the stands.
Imagine seeing Danny Ainge arguing with an agent or Rick Carlisle talking strategy with George Karl up against a sidewall. How about Derrick Rose and Carmello Anthony showing up to support their young guys in a N.Y. vs. Chicago matchup, and not to forget Mark Cuban storming out after a loss but never forgetting to sign an autograph or two before leaving the arena.
In other words, you never know what’s going to happen at the NBA Summer League. Just ask Jeremy Lin when he went head-to-head with John Wall in a standing-room-only Cox Pavilion and launched Linsanity!
We almost get misty-eyed thinking that we are eight years into this. What once started out on a wing and a prayer has now become, in all actuality, the second best basketball league in the world. We owe our success to not only the teams and players, but also particularly the fans of Las Vegas. Over the years, we have seen local hoop heads show up, stake out their seat and not move for 10 days.
We’ve seen kids go from loyal fans in the stands to roster players -- for example, Jimmer Fredette! Whether it’s seeing NBA stars at your local restaurants, in the casinos, on the golf course or at a show, everyone wants to hang out in Las Vegas and blend in with the crowd. Summer League allows them to do this.
The fans of Las Vegas have made the Summer League what it is today, the best family environment and entertainment value in all of Las Vegas. For this, we say thank you, and please come back and be a big part of it again over the next 10 days starting Friday with a 1 p.m. tipoff as the Atlanta Hawks compete against the Washington Wizards in the first of four scheduled games at Cox Pavilion.
Other teams participating in opening-day action include Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors and our Maloof family’s Sacramento Kings. Check out InsideHoops.com and our Sports colleagues at LasVegaSun.com for all the timetables and game reports.
Our thanks to Warren and Albert, and be sure to check out our other guest column today from Aretha Franklin, who performs at Caesars Palace on Sunday. On Friday, our first week wraps up with the Gazillionaire and Penny Pibbets, the crazy couple from “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace, plus Daren Libonati, who produces sports events at our Sam Boyd Stadium, the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion, where Team USA plays the Dominican Republic in pre-London Olympics basketball tonight.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.