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Vegas books inundated with Lakers money
by: Mitchell Mancini
This has been one of the most active NBA free agency periods in recent memory, and the biggest domino, literally and figuratively, has yet to fall. That would be Dwight Howard, the mammoth 7-footer who is universally regarded as the best center in the league.
Howard has one year left on his contract but has demanded the Orlando Magic trade him, which has been difficult considering that Howard has publicly said that he’ll only sign an extension with the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets have acquired Joe Johnson, the highest-paid player in the NBA, and they recently signed both Deron Williams and Brook Lopez to lucrative long-term deals, so they appear to be out of the running for Howard.
At one time Howard to the Nets seemed like a foregone conclusion, but now that we know it’s not going to happen a new front-runner has emerged: the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers have already acquired Steve Nash and veteran small forward Antawn Jamison this offseason, and there are rumors that Grant Hill will soon officially join the team as well. The addition of Howard would give them a lineup that, on paper, is positively scary.
Apparently bettors in Vegas aren’t waiting around for the Howard deal to officially happen, they’re proceeding as if it’s a sure thing. The Lakers’ odds to win next year’s NBA Finals opened at 12/1 at most places and have moved all the way to 2/1 at MGM properties. According to Jeff Stoneback, sportsbook manager at The Mirage, MGM has written more tickets on the Lakers than the next two most bet-upon teams, the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets, combined.
It’s the same story at Cantor Gaming, which operates several high-profile books in Vegas. Apparently Cantor currently has 270 tickets on the Lakers to win and 77 on the second most bet-upon team.
The Lakers are always a popular team in Vegas due to their proximity to the area, but the signing of Nash and the possibility of Howard has created a true “Lakers fever” in Sin City. For now, I’m unconvinced. However, if Dwight Howard is wearing yellow and purple next year, I reserve the right to change my mind.