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Aces relish chance to host WNBA All-Star weekend in Las Vegas

The Aces’ locker room at Mandalay Bay Events Center was abuzz Tuesday night, mostly with positive vibes after a 79-62 win over the defending champion Seattle Storm that ensured they have the WNBA’s best record at 13-6.

Time now for a break.

Time for All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas.

The league is congregating this weekend at Mandalay Bay Events Center for its annual All-Star Game and corresponding festivities, including a 3-point shooting contest, skills challenge, fanfest and beach party at the hotel.

Former and current players are invited to engage in a celebration of basketball, and Las Vegas for the first time is at the epicenter in its second season as a WNBA city.

“This is where people come from all over the world when they want to see great shows and what it feels like to live in the bright lights,” said ESPN women’s basketball analyst LaChina Robinson, who called Tuesday’s game. “There’s a level of excitement that just comes along with this city. … The Vegas community gets to see that there’s another show, and it’s called the WNBA.”

MGM Resorts International owns the Aces and negotiated with the WNBA for a few years to bring the game to Las Vegas. It acquired the Aces in the fall of 2017, thereby solidifying its bid as an All-Star caliber city.

The WNBA announced in July 2018 that Las Vegas would host the 2019 game, and Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said he thinks the league is in for a treat with all the amenities the city offers.

“This is going to be something like they’ve never experienced before because of all the opportunity to put on a show here in Las Vegas,” he said. “We have great arenas. We have convention space to hold parties and have a fanfest. Just the whole package of destination spot for Las Vegas. … I want (the WNBA) to come take a wide-eyed look at what’s available to them for any future times that they want to come here.”

The Aces have three All-Stars — forward A’ja Wilson, center Liz Cambage and guard Kayla McBride — who are looking forward to hosting the rest of the league and showcasing their city.

McBride said she’s eager for the rest of the league to receive the support the Aces get on a nightly basis.

“They’ve showed and embraced so much of us as who we are as people and players,” McBride said. “MGM shows out for us, and I’m just excited for everybody to see that and to be treated like the first-class athletes that they are.”

Wilson sprained her ankle last week and won’t play, but she said she’s still excited to be part of the weekend. She assembled her team as an All-Star captain Tuesday and is looking forward to being supportive of her fellow Aces.

And for the rest of the WNBA.

“I’m just looking forward to having everybody here in Vegas and being treated like an All-Star,” Wilson said. “They work really hard to get in these positions … I’m going to try and capitalize on every moment that I can to help my teammates and everybody around me.”

More Aces: Follow at reviewjournal.com/aces and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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