Dwight Howard shakes up pro basketball odds

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When Dwight officially declared he was going to be playing for Houston this week, after 48 hours of typical Howard-waffling through the media, The Wynn and LVH sports books lowered the Rockets down to 12-to-1 to win the 2013-14 NBA Championship.

On the other side of things, the LVH raised the Lakers from 40-1 all the way up to 100-1, the largest odds on a Lakers team before a season started I can recall since at least the 1980 NBA season, or when Magic Johnson arrived.

Although Kobe Bryant says he is optimistic about a November or December return after a torn Achilles tendon, the Super Book believes the return will be much longer, which is why such large odds have been attached to the Lakers.

The Lakers could be in a rebuilding mode right now with hopes of maybe not even trying to make the playoffs, let alone a title this year – rather banking on getting lucky in the lottery with the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes.

Wiggins was considered the top prospect out of high school since LeBron James. He’ll go through the formality of playing college ball at Kansas for one year, as will be the case for this year’s No. 2 recruit, Jabari Parker, who will play at Duke.

It would appear the Celtics and Bucks are going hard in the direction of tanking this year for the draft prospects. The Lakers could find themselves in that mode as well. In addition to the draft picks, the free-agent pool for the 2014-15 season will feature LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

Texas heat hits Yu! Rangers starter Yu Darvish leads the AL in strikeouts, but if you’ve been betting him over the past two months, you’ve been losing quite regularly. The Rangers have lost seven of his past nine starts with Darvish going 0-3 over that span.

On Saturday he was a -320 favorite over the Astros, holders of the worst record in baseball and a team he’s gone 3-0 against in three starts, including a no-hitter for 8 2/3 innings in early April. But the Astros came out swinging and put five runs on the board off him, eventually winning, 9-5. The few lucky bettors that went against Darvish at the bet windows got it at +290, the largest single game payout of the baseball season.

Josh at home, finally: During Josh Hamilton’s current 11-game hitting streak that ended Sunday, he was batting .375 with two homers, nine RBIs and 10 runs scored. His two home runs over that stretch came in key moments with the fans and the rally monkey egging him on.

Against the Cardinals on Thursday, he hit a game-tying two-run blast the ninth inning off Edward Mujica, helping the Angels to a 6-5 win. On Saturday, his RBI single in the ninth helped keep a four run rally going to tie Boston 7-7, setting up his ‘Natural’ moment in the bottom on the 11th where he hit the game winning two-run homer.

Whatever Hamilton is doing differently right now, it’s working. Most likely evolve around finally feeling comfortable at the plate with no pressure. Being down late in a game has never been pressure for Hamilton, but trying to live up to a massive contract and not performing for the first two months in new surroundings was obviously weighing on him.

Now the fans love him as they’ve always wanted to, and he feels the love as well. It’s safe to say that the Hamilton we all expected from Texas has arrived and we should expect a huge second half.

Before the season there was a lot of talk about a Freeway World Series between the Angels and Dodgers. Both were considered favorites in their leagues, but after two months, their odds soared as the losing for each continued daily. Both have pulled themselves from the depths of the cellar with their stars finally contributing daily.

A future play on each wouldn’t be a bad idea right now. The Angels are currently 30-1 to win the World Series while the Dodgers are 25-1.

Series of the week: The top two money teams of the season square off in Pittsburgh for a three game set beginning Monday between the A’s and Pirates. If betting $100 units on every game on the Pirates this season, you’d be up over $2,400 – almost twice as much as Oakland, the next best team for bettors at just over $1,300 in profit.

The most intense series of the week will surely see some fireworks and bruised ribs as the Diamondbacks and Dodgers renew acquaintances. The two teams have no love for each other and with the Dodgers playing great ball lately, this battle for the NL West figures to bring out the best, or worst, in each.

Zack Greinke and Ian Kennedy will both be marked men in bean-ball wars that spilled over from their last meeting. Greinke pitched Monday and Kennedy – the NL leader in hit batsmen with nine – throws Tuesday.

Hill’s progressive parlay: William Hill has been offering a weekly card that starts at $10,000, but is currently at $15,000 heading into this week. All bettors have to do is place $5 on 15 teams to win straight up – no point spreads – on selected MLB and WNBA games played Thursday through Sunday.

If hitting all 15, the progressive jackpot is yours. This is the same card WH used during football and basketball seasons. This football season, they will offer two separate cards, one for the pros and another specifically for college games.

UFC “through the roof”: William Hill’s Jimmy Vaccaro tells us he is no longer astounded by the type of action he’s seeing on the big UFC cards because it’s occurring on a regular basis. Saturday’s main event in UFC 162 with Chris Weidman beating Anderson Silva as a +200 underdog continued the trend.

“We wrote over six figures on the main event alone,” said Vaccaro, one of the most influential bookmakers in Las Vegas history. “It used to be where we would get one sided action from sharp players and limited small money, but now it’s just the opposite where the smaller money is driving all the action.

“It’s a nice boost for us to have events like what the UFC produces because of the time of where it’s just baseball, in between basketball and football seasons.”

NFL player props posted: For everyone who has been handicapping their fantasy football possibilities, you can take all that homework and put it to good use before your draft by wagering one of 42 different player propositions at William Hill sports books. They’ve put player matchups and OVER/UNDER totals on everything from most yards, sacks, touchdowns and longest field goal.

Yes, you can bet OVER or UNDER 61.5 yards as the longest field goal made on the season.

We’ll break down a few of them next week. One of my favorites was Denver’s Von Miller only -135 over Green Bay’s Clay Matthews for most sacks. The feeling here is that Matthews’ total will be limited because of lingering injuries that will cause him to miss games, not to mention that Miller is simply a better pass rusher.

Cantor college win totals set: If looking for a place to make your opinion count on a college football team this season, you may want to make a visit to one of the many Cantor Gaming sports books located on or near the Strip at places like the Hard Rock hotel, Cosmopolitan, Tropicana, Silverton, Venetian or Palms.

Cantor posted Louisville with highest total at 11 wins UNDER -155 with preseason favorites Ohio State and Alabama at 10.5 each. The lowest number among the 31 teams listed was our beloved UNLV Rebels at 3 wins OVER -200.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].

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