Not many people were surprised when LeBron James signed a four-year $153.3 million contract Sunday with the Los Angeles Lakers just because of all the rumors being discussed the past two weeks.
In fact, over the weekend a few off-shore sportsbooks had moved LeBron’s destination odds from the Lakers -300 all the way to -5,000 with some large money showing. Yeah, lots of people knew, which is why those type of things aren’t allowed for wagering in Nevada.
But the futures action in Las Vegas was getting heavy as well.
“We had got bet all the way down to 4-to-1 and then 5-to-2 on the Lakers to win the championship,” said South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews. “We’re in a position now of losing the Lakers win. We moved the Warriors up to +110.”
It’s almost comical seeing the Lakers in the same odds horizon as two-time defending champion Golden State, but they do now have the best player to ever lace up and it’s a market based on what people will take, not who the books think will win. Obviously, someone out there thought 7-to-2 and 3-to-1 odds were a great investment and they wagered.
“He’ll have a much tougher road to the Finals than he’s been used to,” said Andrews. “He’s got the Rockets, Warriors, Spurs, OKC, Denver, Utah and Clippers to worry about within the West. Those are some really good teams compared to what’s in the East.”
LeBron leaving the Eastern Conference makes it weaker than ever, opening the door for Boston or Philadelphia to reach the NBA Finals. James has made the Finals eight straight years with two different squads, but this is his biggest project taken on yet and it comes at 33 years old in what will be his 16th season.
“He doesn’t have nearly as good a supporting cast as he had in Cleveland,” said Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook VP Jay Kornegay who settled the Lakers at 7-to-2 odds. “But this is a Lakers town and lots of people are excited about the news and betting it.”
Kornegay and his crew have played the guessing game of where LeBron would go since the season ended and they’ve guarded against the Lakers by adjusting rapidly on rumors to stay ahead of the curve.
On June 2 the Lakers opened at 20-to-1 to win the championship. Now at 7-to-2, they’re tied with the Celtics as second-choice to win it behind the favored Warriors at -110. The Rockets are 7-to-1, followed by the 76ers at 14-to-1, the Raptors 40-to-1, the Spurs and Thunder 60-to-1 and the Jazz at 80-to-1.
LeBron is certainly worth the most to a pointspread in the NBA. Las Vegas oddsmaker Kenny White says he’s worth 8.5-points to the number.
Now that the bookmakers across the city are all protected with a severely low Lakers number it will be interesting to see how the roster shapes up. Paul George was rumored to be coming to Los Angeles as well, but he signed on again Sunday to remain in Oklahoma City. Kawhi Leonard wants out of San Antonio and it looks like the Spurs are searching for teams, but only those in the East. Why would they allow Leonard to stay in the West and hurt them?
The other name out there waiting for a new home is 6’11” center DeMarcus Cousins who has averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds a game over his eight-year career. Cousins played last year with Anthony Davis in New Orleans.
The Lakers now can claim six of the top eight all-time NBA scorers on their team. Three of them – Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal – won championships with the Lakers after starting their careers elsewhere.
SuperContest open: July 1 was the first day of sign-up at the Westgate for the world famous SuperContest, the NFL handicapping event that can change your life instantly if you win. For an entry fee of $1,500, contestants pick five NFL games weekly against the spread. Last season’s winner beat out over 2,700 contestants to win the $1.3 million, another top prize record for the seventh straight season.
Large World Cup action: Every four years the sportsbooks get a major infusion of cash during the World Cup in what is a slow time of June and July when baseball is the only major sports to bet. But there was some skepticism coming in this season just because the USA didn’t qualify. Maybe bettors wouldn’t be as active without the red, white and blue to cheer on. Nope, not the case.
“We’ve had lots of World Cup business,” said South Point’s Andrews, “and it hasn’t even mattered that the USA or Italy didn’t make it.”