06/29/2003 11:00PM

Hot night on the town? Try fireworks


With the Triple Crown behind us and the NBA and NHL just wrapping up, this is the slowest time of year in Las Vegas's race and sports books.

Unless tennis at Wimbledon is your cup of tea or you're a baseball diehard, there's not much to celebrate. In fact, maybe the biggest events here this July Fourth weekend are the nine fireworks displays scheduled for the Las Vegas area. Sports fans have the chance to get a head start on the festivities with two fireworks displays Thursday night.

The Las Vegas 51s, the Los Angeles Dodgers' AAA affiliate, play the Fresno Grizzlies at 7:10 p.m. Thursday at Cashman Field, just north of downtown on Las Vegas Boulevard. The fireworks will commence after the final out. Tickets are priced between $6 and $10, and this game is certain to sell out.

I went to a 51s fireworks display two years ago and had modest expectations, and I must say I was blown away by how extravagant it was. So, when they name this year's event the "Las Vegas 51s Fireworks Extravaganza," it seems appropriate. The display was spectacular, a huge show of lights, without the loud blasts that I don't think add anything to the experience.

Now, if you believe in the louder the better, then the Las Vegas Motor Speedway is probably the place for you. Gates open at 6 p.m. for the track's "Night of Fire" program, with qualifying at 6:20, the "NASCAR at the Bullring" race at 7:15, a demolition derby at 9:45, and fireworks at 10. Admission for adults is $10; seniors and military personnel, $8; children 6-12, $6; and children under 6, free.

The classiest fireworks display on the actual Fourth of July will undoubtedly be the "Star Spangled Spectacular" at Hills Park in Summerlin. The fireworks, by the Zambelli family, will be synchronized to music performed live by the Las Vegas Philharmonic. Tickets are $15, with VIP seating for $50. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m., with the fireworks at 9:30. If you're unable to make it to Summerlin, the Zambellis will be featured on the Travel Channel at 7 and 10 p.m. Friday on a show called "Greatest Fireworks on Earth."

Other fireworks are at James Seastrand Park (Thursday), Santa Fe Station (Friday night after an Eddie Money concert), Sunset Station, Desert Breeze Park, Buffalo Bill's in Primm, and the Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas (all Friday).

The fireworks may end Friday night, but the partying will continue through the weekend. Old-time rock-'n'-rollers might like the "Red, White & Kool" concert at The Orleans Arena on Saturday night, featuring Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry. The show begins at 7 p.m., with tickets ranging from $23.50 to $93.10.

The younger crowd can opt for the "Red, White & Rubber" ball at the Palms. Tickets are not sold in advance. The doors open at 9 p.m., with tickets at $50 for men and $40 for women.

LeBron propping up all over

The NBA season doesn't begin for several months, but Caesars Palace (and its sister properties under the Park Place umbrella) are using the hype surrounding No. 1 draft pick LeBron James to spark some b-ball betting action.

James is 9-5 to average between 14.1 and 16 points per game. The odds gradually increase up to 75-1 for averaging between 0 and 2 points, and 150-1 to average 30.1 and up. He is also in head-to-head matchups with 10 other players, including as a 2-points-per-game underdog to No. 3 pick Carmelo Anthony, a 16-point dog to Tracy McGrady, 13-point dog to Kobe Bryant, and 12-point dog to Shaquille O'Neal.

Michael Jordan may be retired (or he may not ... only time will tell), but he's also involved in a prop vs. James that matches their rookie season averages. Jordan averaged 28.2 points per game in his rookie season of 1984-85 and is a 12-point favorite over James.

The Cavaliers, the team that drafted James, are also tabbed to win between 24 and 26 games at odds of 9-5. If you think he'll lead them to 30 wins or more, you can get 6-1.

Sports book notes

David Toms won his second PGA Tour event of the year, the St. Jude Classic, this past weekend. In a field without Tiger Woods, Toms was the 10-1 favorite and became the seventh golfer to win multiple tournaments this year. Woods returns to action this week and is 3-1 to win the Western Open at Cog Hill Country Club in Lemont, Ill. Vijay Singh is the second choice at 10-1, followed by Mike Weir (12-1) and Toms (14-1). Jeff Sherman, golf oddsmaker at the Palms, has raised Woods to 3-1 (from 11-4) to win the July 17-20 British Open.

* NASCAR took a rare week off last weekend, but drivers return to action Saturday night under the lights at Daytona in the Pepsi 400. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the 3-1 favorite. His teammate, Michael Waltrip, is the second choice at 6-1. Earnhardt won the race two years ago after his father died at the end of that year's Daytona 500 on the same track, and Waltrip is the defending champion. Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch are both 8-1, while Bobby Labonte and Jeff Gordon are each 10-1.

* The Tour de France starts Saturday. Lance Armstrong is expected to win for the fifth straight year. In fact, he's so much of a favorite that bettors who like him should be prepared to lay -400 (bet $4 for every $1 you want to win).