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Oddsmakers see Lakers as NBA favorites, with or without Lamar Odom

One bookmaker suggests that the team's addition of Ron Artest is better than losing free-agent forward.

July 28, 2009|Lance Pugmire

No reason to panic, Lakers fans.

Whether free agent Lamar Odom stays in Los Angeles or leaves for the Miami Heat, Las Vegas bookmakers said Monday they don't anticipate anything that would drop the Lakers from their perch as preseason favorites to win the NBA championship -- again.

"Getting [forward Ron] Artest is better than losing Lamar," said Jay Rood, director of the MGM/Mirage Race and Sports Book. The Lakers signed free agent Artest this month. "The core of that team still is what it is, and as long as you keep Kobe [Bryant] and [Coach] Phil [Jackson], nothing changes."

At MGM/Mirage, the Lakers are an 8-5 favorite to win the NBA title, followed by the Boston Celtics, and recent addition Rasheed Wallace, at 3-1, and the Cleveland Cavaliers, with Shaquille O'Neal joining LeBron James, at nearly 4-1. The Orlando Magic are 13-2 and the San Antonio Spurs are 7-1.

"We didn't change anything when they got Artest, and if they lose Odom it'll just be a wash," said Jay Kornegay, executive director of the Las Vegas Hilton's Race and Sports book, which has the Lakers as the 2-1 favorite over the 3-1 Cavaliers and 5-1 Celtics.

"Odom's a component, but he's not a star. As that team has already shown, if they lose someone, they'll find someone else."

Those who assess these situations, with millions of dollars on the line, believe the possible loss of Odom will not diminish support for what is essentially Las Vegas' hometown team.

So why change the Lakers' odds to 3-1 or 4-1 when the betting action supporting the team is already intense?

"The public has shown they'll support the Lakers and the team proved last season they can get by without a big man," Rood said, referring to the injury absence of center Andrew Bynum. "And the return of Bynum is another big thing for that team, that makes them so much more dangerous."

Odom's effect at the sports book will be only slight, bookmakers say, if he goes to Miami. Rood said he'd likely drop the Heat from 25-1 to around 22-1.

"He might make Miami significantly better but they still have the Celtics, Cavs and Magic in front of them," Rood said.

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lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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