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Feb. 21, 2007


Las Vegas needs a bigger arena to host game again



LAS VEGAS -- The Thomas & Mack Center probably won't get another NBA All-Star game. But the event could land in Orlando at some point.

Commissioner David Stern mentioned that possibility during a Sunday morning breakfast hosted by Turner Sports, which is in the process of trying to work out an extension of its television contract with the league.

This All-Star weekend was the first held outside of an NBA city, and Stern mentioned some of the positives of having the events at a neutral site. But if Las Vegas wants to host the NBA's stars again, it will need a new building.

The NBA had to do plenty of work to get the building ready to host this event, but there was still plenty it couldn't do. Because of the small size of the locker rooms, there was no pregame or postgame locker room media availability.

"They are not equipped to hold major-league events in that building,'' Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said.

The NBA is headed to New Orleans for next year's All-Star game, but has nothing set after that. Stern said the league had "a number of applicants'' for 2009 and beyond. He has said his owners prefer a city with warm weather and plenty of hotel rooms, and he specifically mentioned Orlando as a potential site for the future if its arena situation allowed for it.

Both Stern and Turner Sports president David Levy hoped they soon could reach an extension on their deal, which runs through the 2007-08 season. Stern said he hoped it would be before the end of this season.

TNT televised the All-Star game -- won by the West over the East 153-132 -- on Sunday night. Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers was the most valuable player for the second time in his career.


Viva pregame shows.

The introduction to Sunday's NBA All-Star game had every bit of the distinct, outsized Las Vegas flair you might expect, from the flashing lights and brightly plumed showgirls to the appearances by many of Sin City's most famous entertainers.

The crowd was welcomed by magicians Siegfried and Roy - with Roy Horn making a rare public appearance since being bitten by one of his white tigers in October 2003. They introduced famed Vegas crooner Wayne Newton, who belted out "Viva Las Vegas'' amid sparks, neon and showgirls.

After the Eastern Conference team was introduced, Newton played guitar and fiddle during a rendition of James Brown's "I Feel Good'' under a strobe light, followed by his signature "Danke Schoen.''

After the West All-Stars took their somewhat abashed bows, Newton returned with his showgirls for the finale. Shaquille O'Neal appeared to be the biggest fan in the building, clapping wildly and pumping his fist in Newton's direction.

The Thomas & Mack Center also was appropriately packed with stars who provided a one-game return of Gucci Row - the nickname for the courtside seats when they were filled with Las Vegas' richest and most glamorous people during coach Jerry Tarkanian's run of standout UNLV teams.

A small sampling of the celebrities at courtside: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver sitting near Diddy; Jay-Z, who idly dribbled the game ball during the first timeout, and Beyonce; Eva Longoria, fiancee of West All-Star Tony Parker; Ludacris, Prince and Dave Chappelle sitting in a row; and Steve Carell, Harold Ramis and Jeremy Piven just a few seats down.

Barry Bonds, who reports to the San Francisco Giants' spring training complex Monday, sat in the same row as the four casino-owning Maloof brothers behind broadcast row near center court. Other celebrities were scattered throughout the crowd, along with dozens of NFL players.


SEHR GUT, DIRK: Dirk Nowitzki picked up another MVP endorsement Sunday night -- from David Hasselhoff.

Hasselhoff, the well-traveled actor and German singing celebrity who's currently starring in "The Producers'' at the Paris Las Vegas casino, was among the luminaries who walked the red carpet before entering the Thomas & Mack Center. He said he would choose the Mavericks star over two-time winner Steve Nash of Phoenix.

"I think Dirk's going to get it this year, and he deserves it,'' Hasselhoff said.

Hasselhoff's songs are popular in Germany, and Nowitzki said during last season's playoffs that he sang one of them to help him relax at the free throw line. Nowitzki later said he was joking, but Miami fans seized upon it to mock him during the NBA finals.

Hasselhoff even showed up to watch the Mavericks in the playoffs, but said he hadn't been able to catch up with Nowitzki this weekend because of his performance schedule.

Hasselhoff also loved the idea of All-Star weekend in Las Vegas -- and supports the idea of a team here full-time.

``This is the most amazing thing that's happened to Vegas,'' he said. ``I think it would be an amazing attraction to have a team here,'' before adding ``besides 'The Producers.'''

Also making early appearances on the red carpet were Michelle Wie, who can't play golf or gamble in Las Vegas because she's too young and has an injured wrist, and ``Desperate Housewives'' actor James Denton.

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