LAS VEGAS – I was out here last summer, partially on business and partially as a tourist. I had seen and heard about the NBA's Summer League and its games that take place in Orlando, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. But until 2016, I wasn't aware that you could actually bet on and/or attend the games. I vowed to try to catch games in the future, and study the teams to look for edges.
As fate would have it, I recently relocated here and one of the first orders of business was to link up with some friends and head over to the Thomas & Mack Center and the adjacent Cox Pavilion to check out some of the action. Monday seemed the perfect day to make the trip; there were a full slate of games at both venues so 16 of the 24 teams that are competing in Las Vegas were going to be in action. There was no other competition in the sports world, as baseball was on its All-Star break (and I refuse to consider the Home Run Derby to be actual “competition” when it comes to actual sports and gambling).
First, let's start with the negative. The general admission price for tickets is supposed to be $30, and that's a pretty good deal that will get you into both arenas. There are no assigned seats (save for the much more expensive courtside seats, which were going for more than 10-times that) so it's first-come, first-serve, as the action never stops.
Since one of my friends bought a bottle of bourbon for me, I thought I'd buy his ticket and call it a wash. But the actual cost of the tickets was $37.90 after fees. Then there was a $3.50 delivery cost (to my cell phone, as an e-ticket? I'd like to know who gets that money) and a $3.75 surcharge. So it was actually $83.15 for the two of us to get in the door.
And that's really the only bad thing I've got to say about the whole experience (other than losing my first two bets of the day) – the cost of the ticket with the fees is a little on the steep side, and likely not coming down, considering the surge in demand this year. More than 31,000 tickets went through the turnstiles just on Friday and Saturday alone, the first two days of the event.
Oh, and having bets on two different games going on at the same time – that can be a negative when you're trying to sweat both. But it beats not being in action at all, correct?
The good far outweighs the bad from my experience.
The ability to watch as many as eight games in less than 9 hours certainly is appealing to hoops junkies and those who are looking for an edge.
Concessions were reasonably priced, including beer, other beverages and various different types of food and snacks. There were fan interaction areas in the concourses that were very kid-friendly, and the tickets for those 12 years old and under were just $20 instead of $30.
One suggestion in the future would be to consider selling “season tickets”, for people who want to get a discount for going on multiple days. The whole event lasts 10 days, with full slates going for about seven of them before the action drops off once teams get eliminated in the playoffs that started Wednesday. Why not charge $90 or $100 for a ticket that allows you to go to as many days as you want? It's not like there are a lot of other things going on these days in sports, and true fans would gobble up the chance to see their favorite teams and players in action. Though there aren't any established stars playing, the rookies and second-year players all have that potential, and many guys on the bubble to make a roster know playing in Las Vegas is their big chance to get noticed by someone, as well.
As far as the NBA Summer League action – it's eerily similar to what happens in “real” NBA games. Phoenix led Houston by as many as 17 early in the third quarter but the Rockets stormed back to win by five, making all of the plays late. Denver and Toronto played to a 1-point game over at the Cox Pavilion shortly thereafter. Cleveland routed Golden State in the “rematch” of last month's NBA Finals (insert snickering icon here).
The showcase game of the night was supposed to be the Lakers and Sacramento, but Lonzo Ball and several Laker teammates got the night off. So my Sacramento plus-2 bet from Monday morning looked especially good after that. I decided to bank it and back it up with a plus-5 play on the Lakers about an hour before the tip. The Lakers put forth a spirited effort to lead by 18 at the half and then rallied to hang on for a 95-92 win in a pretty exciting nightcap. Unfortunately, despite getting a rare 7-point middle shot, I ended up losing juice on the game.
But the rest of the day, by and large, was a net winner. I'll be back.