Despite the Lakers playing under a new coaching staff, experiencing several roster changes and learning a new system, Kobe Bryant has continually touted the Lakers as championship contenders. Bryant may have said this to convince himself, motivate his teammates or simply persuade the public. The Las Vegas oddsmakers aren't sold.
Jay Kornegay, director of the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, tabs the Lakers as the fifth choice to win the NBA title (12-to-1) behind the Miami Heat (7-5), Chicago Bulls (7-2), Oklahoma City Thunder (4-to-1) and San Antonio Spurs (5-to-1). MGM Mirage's race and sports director Jay Rood has attached different odds, but has kept the same order for the Heat (5-6), Bulls (2-1), Thunder (5-2), Spurs (3-1) and Lakers (5-1).
Don't hurl your pitchforks at the oddsmakers. They're simply assessing how the public will bet their money rather than actually assessing whether that prediction will pan out. And the returns suggest an interesting dynamic.
"They're not going to surprise anyone if they lose in the first round," Kornegay said. "The Nuggets could beat them. It might be an upset, but it wouldn't be surprising. On the other hand, they could easily rally."
Both oddsmakers kept the Lakers at the same respective odds at the beginning of the season. Rood tabbed the Lakers as the third favorite . And Kornegay kept the Lakers at fifth the entire time. The optimism evaporated from last year's semifinals sweep to the Dallas Mavericks, Mike Brown's hiring, the rejected Chris Paul trade, the Lamar Odom trade and the never-ending question on whether Father Time has caught up to the purple & gold.
Even with the Lakers acquiring Ramon Sessions to bolster their point guard position, Bryant finishing second in the scoring race and Andrew Bynum earning his first All-Star appearance, the public still remains unsure how that will translate into the postseason .Kornegay says that skepticism returned after the Lakers followed a signature win two weeks ago to San Antonio with two double-digit losses to them. Metta World Peace's seven-game suspension for elbowing Oklahoma City's James Harden doesn't help matters, but Kornegay says that hardly made a signficant difference.
Though Rood concedes "this year their popularity seems to have fallen off a little bit," he remains impressed the Lakers have still remained a contender despite all the difficult circumstances.
"They've quietly gone through the season with the sky falling," Rood said. "They've been one of the better teams in the West going in the playoffs right now. If the Thunder and old Spurs don't show up it could be an all L.A. kind of thing. The Lakers definitely get to this point of the season, Kobe is definitely capable of getting these guys to go in the right direction and Bynum has been playing well."
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Las Vegas oddsmakers tab Lakers as fifth choice to win NBA title