Las Vegas oddsmakers like defending-champ Lakers' chances
Forget the prognosticators, including myself. If there's anyone to listen to regarding the Lakers' chances of successfully defending their NBA championship, Las Vegas has the answers. After all, that's where the money talks. Fortunately, the "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" mantra didn't apply to my interview with two bookies, who were willing to share their insights.
On the Lakers' chances:
John Murray, Racing Sportsbook supervisor at Las Vegas Hilton: Ideally for us it would be Cleveland-Los Angeles. Our odds certainly indicate that we expect that to be the Finals. Of course, we expected that last year [and] it didn't come true. The betting would be pretty big with Kobe and LeBron. That would be our best-case scenario. There's going to be a lot of support for those two teams if they get there. I would imagine that given our proximity to Los Angeles that we would have more action on the Lakers, but we'd certainly get a lot of people betting on Cleveland and supporting LeBron James as well. I'd be very surprised personally if the Lakers didn't win the West. I think they've been laying low and waiting for the playoffs. This is their time of year. But, of course, I was expecting the Cavs to win the East last year.
Jay Rood, Race and Sports Book director at MGM Mirage: The Lakers stand at 3 to 2 to win the title. The favorite right now is the Cavaliers. We have them at 5 to 7. The roles are almost exactly reversed as it was last year. Last year, the Lakers were pretty strongly favored to win at this point. The Cavs were a smaller favorite. There's some injury concerns and for some reason the way the Lakers finished off the season. It's not Laker-esque. I think it gave some pause to some gamblers on that. Just in the last few weeks, some of the wagering had backed off regarding the Lakers. Prior to the season, they got strong action.
On fan sentiment toward the Lakers last season compared to this season.
Murray: I think it's pretty much the same, really. We have the same amount of Laker action. I know there's people saying they won it all last year so they're not as hungry this year. But it's pretty much the same every year. We always have a lot of people supporting the Lakers and people coming in from L.A. to watch the games and bet on the games. I don't really see a big difference from last year.
Rood: The general sense both times has been they're going to get to the Finals. Against who at this point is tough to say. But I think they'll definitely end up there. Everybody wants to see the Kobe-LeBron matchup. I think that's more than likely. If things fall the way they're supposed to fall and play out the way they're supposed to play out, that's how things will probably shape up. That would be fantastic from my standpoint. That would be very glamorous and fun series to book. You can put a lot of props. You can put a lot of Kobe-vs.-LeBron props and the whole Shaq thing coming into play.
-- Mark Medina
Photo: Vegas oddsmakers think it'll come down to the Lakers and the Cavaliers in the 2010 NBA Finals: Credit: Brian Jones / Associated Press.