(*This piece originally ran on YP.com.)
DAY 1:  A Private Plane, the Lakers Girls and... Penny Marshall?

11:30AM: My father and I arrive at a private terminal at LAX ready to start Lakers-palooza 2012. Purple and yellow balloons adorn the airspace inside the charter waiting area...as do the Laker Girls, who are there to schmooze Lakers season ticket holders and generally spread hotness. 

11:40AM: Laker Girl Jacquelyn interviews my dad about his lifetime love and how wealthy he'd be had he not owned tickets for 32 years. He plays to the camera as if he's on ESPN. He is not.
12:30PM: My father and I chat up other longtime Lakers loyalists -- including the man who was the team's first opthamologist... in 1960. 

1:30PM: Everyone files onto the plane ready for Vegas including actress/director Penny Marshall, who let's be honest... is mostly a Clippers fan. Welcome aboard, Penny. We'll talk some sense into you. 
Party Time With The Lakers

6PM: Two hours after arriving at MGM Grand on the Vegas strip, it's time for what will ultimately become the highlight of the trip: a private party with the Lakers players, coaches and personnel at the Producer's Pool. 

6:15PM: My dad and I arrive to an elaborate spread. We quickly throw down some lobster raviolis and veggie spring rolls knowing full well that food will fall far down our list of priorities at this very VIP event.

6:30PM: Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak makes an appearance. I shake his hand. Vegas may have Copperfield, but this guy landed Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in one off-season. That's not magic... it's a miracle. (*Editor's Note: In retrospect, not really... but kudos for trying.)

6:45PM: I meet Lakers color commentator Stu Lantz, tell him that other than my parents, I've probably spent more time listening to his voice and the late Chick Hearn's. We both agree that this is not good. 

7PM: Steve Nash makes his first appearance. He is immediately mounted by Lakers fans from all directions. He graciously handles the storm of affection. After all, the guy is a two-time MVP and surefire Hall of Famer... he knows how to slip through crowds relatively unseen.

7:15PM: At this point, the full team has made it out to the pool including Metta World Peace, Pau and even Kobe. The increasingly inebriated crowd is swallowing it up recognizing the scene for what it is: a great social media opportunity. 

7:30PM: The Lakers newest big time acquisition, Dwight Howard, willingly meets fan after fan, taking pictures with the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for players about to be cut. He knows how to work it. He's going to love Hollywood.  (*Editor's Note:  Actually, maybe not.)

7:45PM: All coaches are at the party now. Probably to make sure the players don't drink too much. Or at all. Head coach Mike Brown surveys the scene from a quiet corner of the party where my dad strikes up a convo.  He looks on at the unprecedented talent he's been blessed with this season, probably understanding at his core that it's win or bust. 
(*It was bust. He was let go five games into the season.)
The Lakers Rookie Dance-Off

8PM: After Dwight's photo session ends at the hands of the fan-arazzi, he heads to the DJ podium and grabs the mic. He starts holding court in front of all attendees, winning over fans and faithfuls one joke at a time. 

8:15-8:30PM: Dwight starts a Lakers rookie dance-off sending guys like Darius Johnson-Odom to one stage and Reeves Nelson to another. We see vastly different dance moves. Johnson-Odom seems super into it. Poor Reeves does not. Both are good sports, though. Dwight jokes about how he knows this video is headed to YouTube if not TMZ. Yup.
8:32PM: There is an awkward moment when a 70-year-old woman goes on-stage to dance with Dwight and she gets more comfortable than anyone there would've deemed appropriate. But hey, it's Vegas.

8:35PM: Johnson-Odom is still dancing. It's almost like he's auditioning for 'Dancing With the Stars' if the whole NBA thing doesn't work out. 
9PM: After the Rookie Dance Off reminds us all why they're basketball players and not a dance troupe, the team migrates over to an area where a rarity ensues -- a team picture in street clothes. Kobe is game.

9:20PM: We strike up a conversation with Lakers assistant coach Darvin Ham, who gives my dad and I a big hug as if we've been friends for years. I ask him if Dwight Howard's 58% free-throw percentage will be a problem this season. He assures me it won't. We've all had a few drinks.
DAY 2:  Breakfast With Mitch Kupchak at craftsteak

8:30AM: We stumble out of bed at what can only be described as too early and make our way into Tom Colicchio's craftsteak for breakfast with Lakers GM, Mitch Kupchak. I think we can all agree that the night did not end at the Lakers party last night.

8:45AM: We settle into breakfast and start shaking hands with all sorts of longtime Lakers fans such as a season ticket holder of 52 years who utters the following sentence: "I told Jerry Buss that if I hadn't bought Lakers season tickets, I could've owned the team by now."  Great stuff.

9:30AM: Mitch Kupchak is doing the rounds, table to table, graciously  chatting up the group. I speak to him, once again marveling at his genius to exclude Pau Gasol from the Andrew Bynum trade that ultimately yielded us Dwight Howard. He wears an all-black suit. Magician, I tell you. (*I still feel bad that David Stern stole Chris Paul from him and the Lakers, but this is a gripe for another article, another day.)
Lakers vs. Kings at Thomas & Mack Center

6PM: It's Friday night and time for some actual basketball. We board a bus to the Thomas & Mack Center to watch the Lakers play their fifth pre-season game. The Sacramento Kings await.

6:15PM: Still on the bus. Interesting since the Thomas & Mack Center is virtually right next door to MGM Grand. The line of cars is impressive. Clearly the Lakers are a draw when they leave Staples Center. 

7PM: The new-look team is introduced and they look pretty good. Dwight Howard is sitting again as he recovers from his back surgery, but seeing Steve Nash in a Lakers jersey for the first time is exciting and strange. I'll get used to it. 

9:45PM: It's a close game for the most part, but the Kings ultimately prevail, sending our preseason record to 0-5. It's still early. Very early.
 (*As I think about this moment in Lakers history in retrospect, Mike Brown's nervous smile in the photo with my dad was very telling. If he had only known that he was already at his season's midpoint, he might've had a drink...)
DAY 3:  The Party's Over? Ah, Come On...

8:30AM: It's Saturday morning and the buzz from the trip is starting to wear off. I wake up early to cab it to The Cosmopolitan for breakfast.  I've got to see a place that possesses "Just the right amount of wrong." It does, but it all happened hours before I got there.

8:48AM: Wondering why all of the waiters at The Cosmopolitan look like Scott Caan. 

10AM: My dad and I board a shuttle to the airport. The bus is filled with fan-ecdotes from the night before. One guy says he gambled until 5:30AM and left only 'cause he "had to fly home." Small. Detail.

11:15AM: We hand our pre-printed Lakers boarding passes to the flight team and endure a refreshingly pleasant security check. Figures. Golden ticket.

12:15PM: We arrive back in L.A. and to a reality where Kobe Bryant is not in our midst; parties are not free; and the Laker Girls don't smile at every word you say. All season ticket holders head their separate ways, my dad and I to our respective homes having just had the ultimate fan experience. And Penny Marshall... presumably to a Clippers game. 
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