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Old 08-31-2009, 09:45 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Las Vegas gives Raptors 35:1 odds at winning championship

The odds of the Raptors winning the NBA title aren’t good, but the bookies figure Toronto’s revamped roster isn’t bad, either.

In the latest numbers released by the odds-makers in Las Vegas, the Raptors have been installed as 35:1 longshots to claim the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Considering Toronto opened at 50:1, the folks in Vegas have reinforced the improved state of the Raptors.

Another telling number will be the season win total, a figure that’s expected to get posted next month.

It’s not a stretch to suggest the Raptors are capable of winning 50 games in an Eastern Conference that is shaping up to be very competitive and compelling.

The reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers are the overwhelming picks by Vegas to repeat, even though no team has defended the title since the Lakers’ run of three successive championships (2000-02).

L.A. has added Ron Artest, who basically replaces Trevor Ariza, but Kobe Bryant isn’t getting any younger and his durability looms as a crucial issue this season.

The Lakers opened as 3:1 picks to win it all and the current odds have slightly improved to 5:2.

Cleveland comes second at 3:1, followed by Boston (9:2), Orlando (5:1), San Antonio (6:1), Denver (8:1), Dallas (10:1) and Utah (10:1).

At the bottom end of the betting spectrum are teams such as Sacramento and Minnesota, both prohibitive longshots at 250:1.

A team that has caught the eye of Vegas are the Washington Wizards, who opened at 50:1, but currently sit at 30:1.

The Wizards won’t win games based on their defence, but the team promises to score a lot of points.

With Flip Saunders in charge and with the additions of Mike Miller and Randy Foye, Washington figures to be there with the likes of the Raptors, Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers.

The wild card in Washington remains Gilbert Arenas and his surgically repaired knee.

Earning their Spurs

San Antonio knew it had to spend money this off-season following its early exit in last year’s post-season.

Given its market size, the Spurs have historically resisted the urge to exceed the league’s tax threshold.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. In this case, the Spurs had to pay the price to keep pace.

“The face of the league has changed significantly over the last two years,’’ head coach Gregg Popovich said. “We’ve hung in there as long as we can. And this year we’re going to have to spend money like some other people."

To their credit, the Spurs recognized their vulnerability and addressed issues best accomplished by spending money.

In the case of acquiring Richard Jefferson, that meant taking on a contract that still has two years and some $30 million US remaining.

San Antonio had to find a complement for Tim Duncan and dangled its mid-level exception.

For roughly $6 million, the team lured Antonio McDyess.

It’ll be interesting to see if the suits at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Limited ever see fit to allow Bryan Colangelo to go over the tax and pay the punitive dollar-for-dollar penalty.

State of turmoil

A mess may not properly describe the state of the Golden State Warriors, whose history of mismanagement and miscalculation is laughable.

Stephen Jackson has improved his image and his game, but he wasn’t worth the four-year extension that guarantees him $35 million.

Jackson now wants out and says he wants to be traded to either Cleveland or to one of the three Texas-based franchises.

Good luck.

Marco Belinelli is doing cartwheels somewhere in Italy because he knows he won’t be returning to the zoo by the Bay Area.

And to think basketball was rejuvenated in Oakland during the Warriors’ memorable and historical opening-round upset of Dallas in the 2006 playoffs.

As currently constituted, the Warriors are on the verge of becoming the new Los Angeles Clippers.

CANOE -- SLAM! Sports - Basketball - NBA Toronto: Roster changes improve Raps' odds
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