Saturday, February 25, 2012

Hopefully No One Paid Money for the Celebrity Game



I can't believe people were paying $50 for tickets to the Celebrity Game. I came away more than disappointed and I got in for free. Yes I enjoyed a few moments.Penny Hardaway and Nick Anderson starting in the backcourt and goofing around with Dwight Howard. Arne Duncan and Doug Gottlieb making some superb plays to get the crowd loud. J. Cole's (who looks like a shorter Michael Beasley) alley oop jam and then the monstrous block on Common completely shocked me.


But when you combine disinterested former athletes and lackluster celebrities, and then you throw in attempts at hard-nosed defense, you're going to have an overall boring night. The beatdown the East put on the West didn't help. People complain about the Rising Stars game not having ANY defense, yet can't stop drooling from their mouths over the phenomenal dunks and highlights that come out of it. Friday night wasn't the exception. From timeout and stoppage entertainment, there wasn't much to enjoy live other than DJ Irie and the New York Knicks dancers (Take notes, Magic girls). I'm sure the television audience enjoyed Mr. Hart's antics more than me.


Call me a freak, but I don't understand what makes Kevin Hart funny. The little Superman kid put Hart and Dwight himself to shame as far as the 'hilarity meter' goes. To top off the horrendous show, Kevin Hart walks away with MVP. Duncan and Gottlieb must have been furious as should most people who actually watched the game. This is why fan voting normally is an impending failure waiting to happen. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Jam Session is a Basketball Fan's Paradise




I had the wonderful privilege of attending the unofficial debut of the 2012 NBA All-Star Jam Session at the Orange County Convention Center. It was hosted specifically for Orlando Magic season ticket holders, their guests, and other fortunate members of the community. It's a great thing I have wonderful friends who invited me to tag along. A phenomenal success and I'll surely be going once or even twice more this weekend. The interactive map is truly accurate, and you don't completely comprehend how massive this space is until you walk through the atrium. Once you figure out where you need to actually go and then maneuver through the vast parking lot, it's just a quick security check from there. It's quite an escalator ride down and walk over. Everyone that steps foot into that Convention Center is greeted with a light show and 50-foot billboards of the East and West starting lineups. It gets you pumped up and hooked instantly even as everything is just coming into view and your feet are gripping onto the comfortable blue carpet. 




Towards the 'center court', there was a private buffet specifically for VIP Magic ticket owners. I noticed Mr. Bo Outlaw dancing and serving food at the same time. There were also autograph sessions by former Magic men Sam Vincent and Greg Kite (unrecognizable to most) right near the authentic Magic locker room area and real-life sized team photo that even includes Ish Smith. Stuff the Magic dragon and other mascots were just about everywhere for photos and autographs. There are certainly a good mix of adult and kids activities available. Very odd to see Dan DeVos wander around like he was a tourist and no one recognizing or contemplating bothering him. He even grabbed a paper copy of the interactive map and appeared star struck by the activities. 




I will give all you potential visitors a warning: Don't buy the food and drinks there. There's variety, but the quality is meh at best. You end up waiting in line for overpriced food that leaves you feeling like you were physically violated. The only good thing about the food court is really the giant jumbotron-like video screens that were showing the Magic-Nets game. Oh yeah, we stomped them to move to 22-12. There was a watch party on the actual court where the Celebrity game and All-Star practices will occur. Megan Clementi and Scotty B did their normal Magic-type duties. Dancers young and old were involved. 




Be prepared for long lines when it comes to doing some actual basketball exercises. For instance, the Taco Bell Challenge (the same one you'll see on television on Saturday) had an hour long wait. Most of that is because every participant gets a kooky Taco Bell hat. It's still on my to-do list, as is nabbing a free taco and partaking in a few more basketball drills like the 3-on-3 and D-League knockout challenge. The biggest dream scenario is dunking on a hoop. Plenty of options when it comes to height, from 7 feet to the regulation ten. So I'd say it's wise to have a game plan of what you want to do beforehand. I believe the Skullcandy booth is kind of pointless too unless you're big on staring at female DJs.






The 'Walk of Fame' (Derrick Rose's size 12 is exactly the same as me), 'NBA All-Star Photos Experience' wall, 'Get A Grip' (Derek Fisher has HUGE hands), player measuring sticks, and the 'Hall of Fame' sections are all a must when it comes to video and photography opportunities. I love that you are within inches of the NBA championship trophy, and can take a photo at the official media press conference table (bottle of Gatorade not included). People can pretend to do play-by-play, and even be photoshopped into magazine covers and the TNT studio set. The NBA Store is massive and filled with more All-Star memorabilia than one could really fathom. 




Even though I have video of my group and I sucking huge monkey testicles on our first (and most horrendous) 3-point shootout attempt, after some slingshot basket and pop-a-shot to really warm-up, we would go on to run the table and win 7 straight (believe it or not). It's definitely the highlight of my Wednesday evening as I actually began perspiring towards the end. If you're looking for a resting spot, just chill out on one of the bleachers as you watch youth girls and boys compete in actual school tournaments. 




The entire ordeal was such a delight, and even after 4 hours in the Convention Center there's still much left one can accomplish. I was basically living my childhood fantasy at Jam Session, and it's something a basketball addict really won't forget. If you have the money and the time, definitely check this out.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Official NBA-Sanctioned 2012 All-Star Weekend Events Schedule



My previous blog post was more on the alcohol-friendly, staring at ladies, and buckwild side of All-Star Weekend. If you're just a pure basketball addict, and you're not the biggest fan of PowerPoint presentations, well I'm sure you can make an exception for what the City of Orlando created and provided. Most of the events displayed won't have very much casual spectator access. It's basically for NBA players, associates, media, and the other V.I.P. types. Some of these screen grabs you won't be able to read even though I've expanded them outside of my blog design boundaries, but clicking on them to expand to their original size vastly improves the quality.

As you can see, we're less than 2 days away from NBA-sanctioned festivities beginning and still some of these official events haven't been given an exact time of occurrence yet. Still, it's very easy to notice that there's not much opportunity for sleep. Fantastic. For us locals, the tail end of that presentation should put a smile on all of us Orlando natives and citizens when we start crunching fiscal and non-monetary figures. There's a lot to be potentially be proud of when this weekend concludes, Central Florida. Who said sports were a bad community investment?












Monday, February 20, 2012

Hey Basketball World, Get Ready to Party it Up in Orlando


Oh don't worry folks, Amway Center and its surrounding area won't look at all that serene. Locals, sports figures, outside media spending time in Orlando: Get as much sleep as you possibly can these next few days. Once Thursday comes around, NBA All-Star Weekend madness will have officially descended upon Orlando. It'll be a 4-day test of wallet capacity and a marathon to see and do as much as possible. A spread out population of 2 million people will have tens of thousands of guests enjoying our wonderful city (some for the first time). Citizens of Orlando, just like with the astounding Wrestlemanias and World Cup types of events our supposed little town has hosted in the past, it's our unofficial duty to assist in making this the best NBA All-Star Weekend ever. This isn't 1992, we're much more than just theme parks and a lot of open grassy lands. We have the best basketball arena in the world now and we get to flaunt the hell out of that and our underrated club scene. It's a chance to see millions of dollars get pumped into our local economy at a period in time where it's vastly needed. 


I'm only blogging the main party attractions. Also, if you're that hellbent on visiting the theme parks, it's a piece of cake to navigate yourself there. You don't need my assistance in that department. Keep in mind as I list these parties off, changes can always occur (for good or bad). Events can be cancelled or tweaked. New events and ones I haven't posted here will be out there so do some homework if you're on a budget. Unfortunately for economically hindered men, pricing wise, it's great to be a female. I'm expecting a feast of eye candy. There are literally dozens upon dozens of special events dedicated to this basketball spectacle. Also, I'm not intentionally showing bias to any specific club party or any ticket buying website. This is meant to be informative. A good chunk of the celebrity-filled events throughout Orlando are listed here including being able to actually buy tickets to these parties. 


For the most part, this is where you'll live and breathe. Here's a map of the Downtown Orlando area, as well as a relatively simplified directory that shows you how and where to go to. There are map directories around our busy business district, but know when and where you want to be attending a venue ahead of getting out of your homes or hotel rooms. Of course, we're all smart enough to know how to do a Google search to get a better idea of the types of bars and clubs exist. The weather in the 32801 downtown area should be more than satisfactory. Note also that the Orlando Executive Airport is about a 5 to 10 minute drive East of the downtown epicenter. I only reference it because of the few private airplane hangar bashes. Also, you'll see a few Roxy parties out there which is located a few minutes from the hangars.


In fact, I don't advise strangers venture out of Downtown Orlando *cough* OBT *cough* unless they know what to expect, a single club separated from everything. My only exception would be if indeed you're hitting up a hangar party. Otherwise, I would just stay in the downtown area since most of the events are in walking distance. Plus there are countless clubs up, down, and around Orange Avenue that you won't need to pay an arm and a leg to get into, such as Wall Street Plaza. I have it on good authority that the Florida Highway Patrol will be looking to make bank and will be on a mission to pull over as many drunk drivers and speeders as possible. So yes, drink responsibly and drive safe. Or get a hotel room within walking distance would be a better idea (and those are all booked to the max). If desperate for a lap dance on Friday or Saturday nights, well then Plies and some NFL players (I see you, Asante Samuel) can assist you with the 4th Annual Strip-A-Thon at Cleo's. There's also a car show and day party in between that. Can't make this stuff up.


On Sunday, if you love basketball and racing and have tickets to both the Daytona 500 and All-Star Game, sell one or the other because the type of traffic and road mayhem that will occur has never been seen in the history of the Central Florida area and your chances of seeing both events live in their entirety are slim to none. Let's get down to the celebration.

THURSDAY FEBRUARY 23RD:



For those of us who have to work on Friday morning, you're basically mostly relegated to what is occurring at the Orange County Convention Center, where NBA Jam Session is being held Thursday through Sunday. You'll see the schedule of events here. Our convention center is massive and will contain a plethora of activities and memorabilia to enjoy.




The title speaks for itself, welcome to Orlando. As listed above, I'm not a fan of Roxy nightclub and I would be stunned with Dwight spent a lot of time here. But this is one of the very few large celebrity bashes that'll be ongoing Thursday night. Also, Dwyane Wade has his 5th Annual All-Star soiree at Vain. Then there's this Chris Brown-Kemba Walker-John Wall super random combination. I don't like the way this one has been quietly organized at H20


FRIDAY FEBRUARY 24TH:




As far as I know, I've never seen or heard of an airplane hangar party ever occurring in Orlando. Orlando International Airport is a good 20 minutes away from downtown. So the much closer and smaller Executive Airport has been tapped as the lucky experimental destination. Kevin Durant, Fabolous, and Lil' Jon are your main attractions. Tickets are running between $55 and $200 (Open bar!). This may be one of my favorites of choice you could attend. The only truly 'closed' event I've seen is the LeBron, Carmelo, and CP3 'Ball So Hard' invitation only party that many will kill to get into it. 




Should I trust a celebration that can't spell 'birthday' correctly? I guess in this case you should. This is basically Dwight Howard's and Floyd Mayweather's official warm-up to the weekend. Howard will have the world try and keep an eye on his whereabouts (as will Adidas) so you know this will be a legit party. Don't expect D12 to be there very long, he's still not much of a drinker. February 24th will indeed be the boxing great's 35th birthday. Vain Nightclub in particular is notorious for having basically 3 stories of phenomenal light shows, hip-hop & techno music, and lines that can wrap around two blocks. The $75 entrance fee isn't too bad considering it's usually $20 for gentlemen to get in on a normal weekend.


This is where things get tricky and possibly sketchy. Supposedly Dwight is also supposed to be at the Majestic way out on John Young Parkway that same evening. Either way, again, I wouldn't venture far out since you're leaving the downtown atmosphere. Then you have Superman's teammate, Jameer Nelson. Even in the promotional poster Jameer looks sad. Mighty Mite's All-Star party is at Dragon Room where the Magic and their visiting NBA teams usually venture off to after games. So I hear the Latinas love this Miguel guy. My only questions are: Is he hosting a performance or a party and is it at Terrace 390 or Amway Center's 180 Grey Goose club? Either way, you can't go wrong with both of those top notch clubs. It is indeed being hosted at Terrace 390, but that's a confusing poster. If it's just a performance, Miguel will probably be in and out after 3 songs.


SATURDAY FEBRUARY 25TH:




The other big hangar event that has Dwight's and Lil' Wayne's names plastered all over it. Saturday is by far the biggest club hopping night of the weekend. So much variety to choose from. Here's something I like seeing, parties open until 4 a.m. This is where Orlando falls behind in comparison to L.A., New York, Miami - Orlando bars and clubs have to stop the music by 2 a.m. City officials though have made an exception for this very special weekend. Even though P-Diddy is inexplicably hosting a party at the Cheyenne Saloon, it's almost completely sold out. The Ciroq party is clearly the 'wild card' of the bunch and no one has a clue what to expect. At least it puts you on Church Street. Roxy is at least keeping itself busy. First Dwight Thursday, then Rick Ross & Amber Rose on Friday, and now Chris Brown's get-together on Saturday. I found it hilarious that it's called 'Takers II'. Better than a slapfest I guess. 




So, um, I don't think Ricky Rozay realizes he's competing against Dwight and Lil' Wayne. The $125 general admission isn't exactly a bargain option either. There are a few cheaper options though, but no where near downtown. Former Magic man Chucky Atkins is actually having a party way over in Metrowest at Tavern on the Lake. Current Orlando pinstriped player Glen 'Big Baby' Davis is also hosting a Tavern on the Lake bash. Hopefully he'll be in a happy mood considering the rocky past few months he's faced. 




I guess if you love Vain and have a New York State of mind, then this Carmelo Anthony-Fabolous event is perfect for you. Also, Club Firestone has finally reared its head into the festivities with J-Cole and John Wall being the faces of the 'Rookie of the Year' party. In what I think will be the best venue to go to, Tier Nightclub by All-Star Weekend, will only have been open 3 weeks. It's already getting praise and hype through the roof. It's warranted. You saw above the closed party they're hosting Friday, but Saturday I have heard through the rumor mill that they're hosting a Rubio-Lin bash. 'Rickdiculously Linsational' is what this could potentially become. Heed this, Lin isn't on the poster yet. If you only want to see Jeremy, I would hold off on reserving tickets and VIP tables until it's official. If Lin does join the festivities, why on Earth would any basketball junkie not want to be here?!





Then there's Bliss Ultralounge, another Church Street place that is located next to the train tracks. Normally this is a techno/house music type of place, but All-Star Weekend can make exceptions as I guess we'll be seeing Derrick Rose in the building.


The most interesting 3-headed celebrity monster of the weekend definitely goes to this 'Undisputed' event. Kevin Hart, Floyd Mayweather, and LeBron. The cockiness and arrogance is just dripping off that flyer. But why The Ballroom? That's almost as odd as using the Cheyenne Saloon. Almost. D-Wade looks to be staying separate from LeBron once more at the Majestic. 

SUNDAY FEBRUARY 26TH:





After the actual NBA All-Star Game you'll find few celebration venues. Maybe most of the celebrities and players will be looking to fly out of Orlando immediately. There is hope though for all you Mary J. Blige and R. Kelly fans, they'll be closing out the weekend together. The Majestic to my surprise again has been chosen. I'm sure by now you've noticed Grey Goose has sponsored a vast majority of these bashes. Shockingly too, Biz Markie has kind of been snuck into the event almost as a throwaway. Suitably, you'll find one final private airplane hangar party at the Executive Airport. It's assumed Drake will be there as long as his legs don't buckle by Sunday. Rick Ross will also close out his marathon weekend at The BeachamNow I know Terrace 390 will win some people over with their Playboy 'Bunny Bunch' party. I see our UCF Knights girl Shanna McLaughlin will appear at the alumni establishment. Finally, I notice the rare International Drive party over in Pointe Orlando. Young Jeezy will occupy BB KingsSo that was just a sneak peek taste of what's expected to happen in the City Beautiful this upcoming weekend. I'd imagine the non-planned hotel gatherings at places like the Grand Bohemian will be fantastic. Make sure your bank accounts are prepared, and please safely enjoy yourselves to the fullest. It's not like this happens every decade in our town. 



Saturday, February 18, 2012

Fight For Dwight Reaches Critical Pre-All Star Road Trek


What a season full of countless emotions, rumors, and storylines. Look no further than Dwight Howard, who has epitomized a wild and crazy past few months. D12 can't keep his mouth shut or stop changing his opinion, yet has sleepwalked into another MVP worthy season. Seven 20-20 games will help your cause for sure. Superman went from being guaranteed to be a Laker, then a Clipper, then a Net, and now maybe a Maverick. Many sportswriters still believe that the DeVos family will trade Dwight before the March 15th deadline. Like most of this 2011-2012 Lockout campaign, mental and physical toughness will need to grow and develop with this squad if we want to be in decent shape come playoff time. Yes I still think we can compete for that title. 



You have Glen Davis going through what might be his worst personal calendar year of his life, and it's only February. Hedo Turkoglu is as inconsistent as ever. Jameer Nelson and Jason Richardson have battled through career-worse seasons riddled with injury and slumps. The Amway Center is sometimes as quiet as a church at times despite the exciting action that occurs in front of the paying consumers. Some of that has to do with fair weather fans that all teams have, but a lot of the fingers should probably be pointed at this Dwight trade rumor mill controversy that casts a shadow over the entire City Beautiful. You have some of the loyal supporters and season ticket holders already putting their money in their pockets and their cheers deep into their souls before #12 has even left town. In many ways it's caused folks to label this shortened season a lost year. It will be if Dwight departs and nothing positive results from the upcoming postseason.


I've said it once and I'll say it again, the Orlando Magic are bigger than just one person. That's why RDV and the rest of the front office should and will wisely put Dwight's potential exit from Orlando solely on Howard's big brawn shoulders. But here we are having won 8 of the last 10 games with those two losses coming in overtimes. 20-11 with a 4-game trek away from Amway Center ahead of us beginning Sunday afternoon in Miami and culminating Thursday evening in Atlanta. In between those challenges will certainly be an intriguing visit to New Jersey on Wednesday. Those Nets fans will definitely look to give Dwight a warm welcome. Atmosphere is expected to be awkward. Don't let Superman's statistics fool you, he's been holding back at times and it's excruciatingly obvious to anyone that knows the game of basketball. It might indeed cost him a fourth straight Defensive Player of the Year award if not careful. Will we see D12 begin to show faith as the Magic sit in a solid 4th place in the Eastern Conference? Or will Dwight's mind be on his multiple All-Star Weekend parties? 


Stan Van Gundy isn't the only one reaching for the TUMS. The scrutiny SVG and Otis Smith have received at times has reached the levels of embarrassing and ridiculousness. Especially for Stan though, it's horrifying that Magic fans would so easily want to send away a top 5 NBA mind and the greatest coach in franchise history. I will be enraged at Otis though if he gives into D12's request to bring a washed up Stephen Jackson onto this team. At least Big Baby and Wafer for Bass was a fair trade, especially with Brandon now hurt and him being a free agent this summer had he stayed with us. The roster of support surrounding Dwight has been criticized, yet that same group of men has negated Howard's terrible play time and time again this season. Our Orlando media could easily rip Dwight to shreds, but despite being annihilated by Howard and the rest of America, those media outlets like the Sentinel still refuse to chide our franchise center. That comes from loyalty and respect this community has for the superstar that Howard will never find anywhere else. 


Let's get back to focusing on these next four games before Orlando gets to put on a show for the world (That'll definitely make '92 look like a small time experience). Mark Price is starting to do some miracle work as Dwight is finally shooting above 50% for the season from the free throw line. Baby steps. The Heat were dispatched fairly easily the last time these two sides met at Amway. Revenge and a wanting to show dominance will be on Miami's mind for sure. After that comes yet another matchup with the Bucks, their 3rd meeting in nine days. Nice schedule work, Stern. I'm hoping we crush both Milwaukee and the Nets before we head into Atlanta still seeking our own redemption after we lost to the Hawks in overtime in front of our home fans on February 10th. Expect more ugly, defensive basketball in the ATL. I'll be curious to see how many Magic men actually get more rest on this road trip than they will throughout All-Star Weekend. Discipline and energy will need to be at their peaks if the Magic want to return home with smiles on their faces. I will be ecstatic if we go into the Break 23-12. I just don't want us to continuously be teased every couple of weeks on whether or not this team is legit. Either way, Stan must be salivating at all the practice and supposed rest time ahead.

Photos courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

J-Rich's Chance at Redemption



4 years $25 million was all Otis Smith had to dangle for #23 to re-sign after the Lockout was finally all said and done. It's a shocker to almost anyone, local or not, that the Michigan State product signed on the dotted line. Not only due to the lower monetary offering, but the fact that J-Rich had been rumored to be going to places such as Chicago once our playoff run ended last summer. Maybe there was more loyalty than we imagined considering how much blame Jason took for our 1st round exit despite the injuries he fought through. Or maybe the other offers just weren't as lucrative. J.J. Redick now makes more money per season than Jason Richardson does. That's definitely a change of pace to Magic fans who didn't want to see J-Rich get $8, 9, or 10 million. But at $6.25 million per season, Jason is almost a bargain (or at least fair value). He turned 31 years old in January and his perimeter-heavy game will keep him in the league for most likely the entire duration of that contract. At least, that's what we want to believe. 


Whether you were settled on Jason to start or come off the bench, no one expected Richardson to have as putrid a beginning to the 2011-2012 campaign as Richardson had. Jason looked healthy and spry in training camp and preseason, only to look like he'd never shot a jumper in his life. His points per game are at a career-low, and Redick truly deserved a larger chunk of Jason's starts than he's had up to this point. Then we found out that Jason's legs weren't as healthy as we expected. His diminished leaping ability has us Magic fans envisioning Vince Carter all over again. The bone bruises and other clashes his knees and legs have suffered over the years have caught up to the 2-time dunk champion as they did the greatest jam artist of our time. But Jason can do what Vinsanity never truly could, adapt and change his game to suit the team he plays for rather than expect the other way around. 


Jason's road to recovery will have to mirror the team's exact path. At 13-9, and the Magic catastrophically struggling to regain their winning ways, J-Rich found himself returning to the starting lineup after missing a few games here and there. A 19-point outing at home against the Cavaliers on Friday may not seem like a big deal, but it's J-Rich's second best performance of the season so far. Then the next night on Saturday in Indiana, Jason ends up posting 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists in what is his most complete stat sheet of the season. It's only two games, but the 15-9 Magic will only improve on their 6th seed in the Eastern Conference if Jason can continue to show flashes of his prime. It's especially necessary when our point guard output is one of the league's worse. We know what Redick can provide, but Richardson must remain strong and aggressive for our shooting guard positions to truly appear fortified and steady on a roster full of unease over the Dwight trade rumors. This week will be quite the test with the Clippers, Heat, and Hawks all coming to town.  


Photos courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

*WARNING* Magic Brutality in New Orleans


Only reason I'm posting these videos from my visit to the New Orleans Arena last Friday night is because the Magic finally stopped the bleeding by defeating the Wizards on Wednesday night. It's a long, slow road to recovery. 13-9 is still respectable considering all the absurd Dwight Howard trade chatter. Now stop losing at Amway Center and get a win against the Cavaliers tomorrow. Good thing the 'Big Easy' provides much needed distractions from a 67-93 annihilation. That was worse than witnessing an execution.