Archive for the ‘60/30’ Category

Andrew Unterberger is more than halfway home on his trip to every NBA arena. Here are his thoughts on Phoenix…

When I asked my dad for suggestions of things to do when passing through North Dakota a few weeks ago, one of the only things he could think of was to see a home game of the state’s D-League team, the Wizards. (Is that really such a great team name that it demands both pro and minor repping?) The league’s season hadn’t started yet, so I couldn’t take him up on it, but I did like the idea of going to a D-League game at some point in my trip — I’d never been before, and had absolutely no idea how it would compare to the live NBA experience. So on my way down to Phoenix from Denver, I stopped off in New Mexico to pay a visit to my old college trivia friend Jason and to go see the New Mexico (née Albuquerque) Thunderbirds square off against the Erie BayHawks.

The stadium that the Thunderbirds played at (Santa Ana Star Center) was so far off the main road that my Garmin refused to believe that it even existed, but luckily Jason had a pretty good inherent sense of direction, and we were able to find the stadium well before tip-off. The arena was far from sizable — just one level of stands, putting the seating capacity somewhere between high school and Div-II college — and, unsurprisingly, it was still far from full. The attendance might have just broken quadruple-digits, but probably not if you take away all the kids and their families that were there as some sort of youth basketball cross-promotional thing. Jason and I were able to walk up to the box office and get seats two rows back at center-court for $23. I don’t even think the Nets could offer that kind of a bargain.

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60/30: No. 16, Pepsi Center

I raced straight from Utah to my hotel in Denver the night after my visit to ESA in order to watch the NBA’s Game of the Year, Heat-Cavs in Cleveland. I made it there just in time for the player introductions, which of course turned out to be the most suspenseful part of the entire game. Oh well, at least the Suns-Warriors game afterwards was decent, and then I had the entire next day to spend in Denver. I went to another Roadfood-recommended lunch place — Buckhorn Exchange, known for their Rocky Mountain oysters. Didn’t go for those, since it breaks my personal no-brains-or-genitals code of culinary ethics (the two things I wouldn’t be cool with anyone eating off my corpse), but I did try rattlesnake for the first time. Like chicken (of course), but chewier and more succulent. I can dig it.

Also made my way to the Red Rocks amphitheater, where rock greats from U2 to John Tesh have made live music history. I tried to run back up the stairs after walking on stage and was cruelly reminded of how I’ve spent the last month sitting in a car seat occasionally moving my right foot up and down. Rocks were pretty, though.

Anyway, I made it to the Pepsi Center with plenty of time to spare before tip-off, for once. With the Clippers in town and the Nuggets on a five-game hot stretch, I liked my chances at starting up the first winning streak of my trip so far. I also predicted something of a barnburner of a game — not sure why, really, just had that good feeling. I was due, perhaps.

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Making my way to Utah from LA, someone pointed out to me (because I’m not smart enough to look at a map myself) that I’d probably be passing through Las Vegas on the way there. I had an off night to spare and hadn’t been to Vegas since I was still about a decade away from being of gambling/drinking age, so it was an obvious layover location before getting out to the Beehive State. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do there — the slots and other video games seemed too depressing to do for an extended period of time, and I lack the intestinal fortitude and necessary know-how to try my hand at any of the tables — until my uncle suggested the very obvious solution of heading to a sportsbook and trying my hand at some NBA bets. Despite being both a pro hoops junkie and the least fiscally responsible person I know, I’d never actually bet on basketball before, but the prospect of adding the suspense of many dollars being on the line to a normal night of League Pass and drinking was a decently exciting one.

I checked in to my hotel a few blocks off the strip with just a few minutes before the early games tipped off, so I quickly grabbed a cheat sheet at the neighboring casino and placed bets on all seven Tuesday night games. (Just $20 each — an excusable dip into the 60/30 contingency fund.) After wandering the strip for about an hour looking for a sports bar showing all the games simultaneously — couldn’t find one, but did get to enjoy the rare freedom of chugging a Blue Moon on the street), I settled at the New York, New York casino where I was able to piece most of the games together spread over a couple different rooms. A rough early start had me worried that my trip’s bad karma carried over to NBA wagering as well, but a strong finish allowed me to essentially break even — won three (Sixers +3.5 over Blazers, over 192 Pacers/Kings, Spurs -4.5 over Warriors), lost three (Cavs money line over Celtics, under 205 Nets/Knicks, Lakers money line over Grizzlies) and pushed one (Magic -11 over Pistons). Ultimately, spent $6.50 for a night’s worth of entertainment. Can’t complain about that. (Really, though, Lakers?)

Vegas done, I headed up to Utah for the most scenic drive of my trip thus far. (Essentially drove into a mountain at one point — felt like a Universal Studios ride or something.) Getting to EnergySolutions Arena, I figured I had pretty good odds at getting the fourth win of my trip with Utah at home (where they went 37-4 a few years ago), but with the dragon-slaying Pacers in town and me in attendance, I knew that, truly, nothing was certain.

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Andrew Unterberger loves L.A. Here’s his second report from the Staples Center…

After another car mini-crisis averted — I think it was just sulking over my cruelly abandoning it for a couple days over Thanksgiving — I headed back to the L.A. Live area for Lakers-Pacers, the night part of my double-header. There I met up with Jeff Weiss, Laker fan and CEO of the excellent hip-hop-plus blog Passion of the Weiss, for what seemed like the surest home win of my trip thus far.

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Well, Thanksgiving was fun, wasn’t it? I had to leave my car out on the West Coast and fly cross-country to Boston to meet up with some family, but it was much less stressful than expected — the airport lines were non-existent, and I spent pretty much the entire flight sipping screwdrivers and watching “Dexter” and “Terriers” episodes on my computer. (Ran out of episodes on the way back and was forced to finally watch “Crank: High Voltage,” which was both terrible and wildly inappropriate to be watching on a crowded plane of strangers). Kudos must be given to the Southwest Airlines flight attendants, as well — I got four different ones over my two-part return and departure trips, and all four were cranking out the yuks over the PA like it was their job. I wonder if it’s in the fine print of their contract or something.

The weekend with family was fun as always, though my performance in the annual family football game (two dropped passes, blown defensive assignment on go-ahead touchdown) might get me uninvited for next year. It was a little weird to go six days without attending a basketball game, but at least I got to watch the NBA’s shit sandwich of a nationally-televised Thanksgiving weekend schedule over the two nights. I don’t know if the league is contractually obligated to show the worst games possible for these nights, or if they just feel like throwing a bone or two to some teams (Sacramento, Charlotte, Memphis) who otherwise would never be on TNT or ESPN2, but good goddamn did they choose some unmarquee match-ups. (The NBA on TNT guys seemed unsure why they were even there, like “They expect us to actually talk about these games?”)

Anyway, I flew back to LA on Saturday in preparation for my double-header at Staples Center on Sunday — a Clippers-Jazz game in the afternoon, and a Lakers-Pacers showdown at night. Between a surging Clippers squad (winners of two of their last three, which might as well be a ’71 Lakers streak considering their 1-13 start) and a cruise-control Lakers team (13-3, though coming off a tough loss in Utah), I hoped to at least get one win to pad the deplorable 3-9 record of my home teams thus far.

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Andrew Unterberger just completed the first leg of his trip. Here’s his report from Oakland…

After my Sunday afternoon game at ARCO, I had a nice relaxing trip down to San Francisco, driving well under the speed limit and avoiding my usual imaginary feuds with other drivers on the road. I crashed at my cousin’s place in Portrero Hill, and the next day, grateful for the day off from travel, I forewent the sight-seeing suggestion — hey, I was here for like a week two years ago, I’ve gotten my Bay Area fix — and just watched HBO movies on their gorgeous big-screen television. (“The Box,” by the way, might be the most fundamentally insane movie I’ve seen in years.) Then that night me, my cousin and her fiancé headed to Oracle Arena in Oakland for a showdown between the Warriors and Nuggets — their first-ever live hoops game, and my third in three days.

With stories continuing to abound about the insane atmosphere at Oracle — many of them probably still leftover from their unexpected playoff run four seasons ago — I think it’s safe to say that this was one of my more highly-anticipated arena visits. Combined with the fact that the Warriors had already made for two very exciting games as an away team on my trip and that they were playing a fairly offensively-powered team in the Nuggets, I was expecting a fairly fun game to try to sell my cousin and her fiance on the live basketball experience. This was to be my last game before something of an extended Thanksgiving break — not planned really, just how my schedule worked out — so I also wanted a good memory to tide me over during those horrible, hoopsless days I would be forced to spend eating and drinking with friends and family.

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60/30: No. 11, ARCO Arena

Andrew Unterberger is traversing the West Coast, seeing basketball games, taking pictures and writing. Here’s his report from Sacramento…

Compared to my recent trek west, waking up at 4:30 am to drive ten hours to Sacramento for a 3:00 game at ARCO Arena actually seemed like a relatively benign task. The roads were clear, the weather was nice, and the scenery was beautiful — I actually stopped at one of those overlook things to take a couple pictures, something that my dad would probably find hilarious, given how much shit I used to give him for making us do the same countless times on road trips. Impressively tranquil, at least for the first 300 miles, after which a hike up one of the mountains in Northern California suddenly landed me in the most intense fog I’d ever driven though for about thirty seconds, after which it was all good. Much geographical weirdness to be found in this country, I suppose.

The only real bummer about the drive was that I got to spend barely any time at all in Portland, a city I’ve never been to and obviously heard much about. But, duty calls, and no quality of sight-seeing was going to keep me from watching the Kings take on the Hornets in their Sunday matinee. Consider PDX earmarked on my US road-trip map for later reference.

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