By Charles Jay
This NBA All-Star Game is a special one, as it is the last one in which America’s Bookie audiences will get a look at Kobe Bryant in this atmosphere. Bryant, who is retiring and will be in this event for the 18th time, will unquestionably be a sentimental favorite to win the game’s MVP award, although the multitude of aches and pains he has suffered may preclude him from that noble pursuit. The game is slated to begin at 8 PM ET at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, and customers can remain very much involved in the action as they navigate their way through odds that change during each break as they are accessed through the “Live Betting” option on their sportsbook interface.
For the uninitiated, this is not a pickup game like the NFL Pro Bowl, where they choose up sides. No, these guys only PLAY like it’s a pickup game, which means that stunts will be on display, while defense won’t. Some of the players in this game were chosen largely because of their mastery of some of the fundamentals, but those fundamentals will going out the window, for the most part.
Bryant is a starter for the Western Conference squad, and it is no surprise that he was voted in by the fans. What is most interesting about these starting lineups is the conspicuous absence of big men; both sides will have to play some “small ball,” at least at the start. There are guys who supply a paint presence, but they will be coming off the bench.
In the NBA All-Star betting odds posted on this game by the people at America’s Bookie, the West is favored:
West All-Stars -5.5
East All-Stars +5.5
Over 318.5 points -110
Under 318.5 points -110
Bryant’s situation is kind of strange, in that while he certainly could get things together enough to play all-out in this game, it might have some lasting effects, considering that he has told reporters that, well, basically everything hurts right now. He talks of how nice it is to get this much rest, and frankly, you wonder whether he would just be content to make an appearance, give the papal wave and ride off into the sunset.
What we suspect is that he isn’t going to be guarded all that closely. Who would want to spoil his going-out party? How long he will be in the game is unknown. Remember that Gregg Popovich, who is the master of rationing minutes as coach of the San Antonio Spurs, is handling the West team, along with his assistants, who include Becky Hammon (the female to be involved in that capacity). And we doubt very seriously that he will extend Bryant. He just wouldn’t do that to another team, even if it is the Lakers. That’s why I’m not sure I would venture on a bet with him, as he has become the overwhelming +135 favorite at America’s Bookie to take home the MVP.
Alternatives? There are a couple of “hometown” guys who will almost undoubtedly get some playing time. Kyle Lowry, who has averaged 21 points from his point guard spot, is one of the starters, and Demar DeRozan, who like Lowry is in his second All-Star Game, has tallied 23.4 points per game, as the Raptors are mounting a rather serious run at the #1 seed in the East, which is currently occupied by LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. Lowry is priced at +1250 and DeRozan is at +1750; not sure there is great value there.
The guy who wins the MVP of this game has to be someone who has the raw ability to take control of things and has no conscience at all about shooting it as much as necessary. From that perspective, Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder might be an attractive choice. At +750 in the America’s Bookie betting odds, he might be worth a look. King James carries the same price, and you know he will always be a contender. Plus, he is on the East team, so there is no concern about “sharing” the ball with Kobe.
As for longshots, let’s go back to the East and Andre Drummond, who is the guy coach Tyronn Lue will insert into the lineup when he is looking for some pure size. Drummond is the closest thing to a pure center who will be participating, and he not only leads the league in offensive rebounding by a wide margin, he is also the NBA leader in defensive rebounds. He’s also priced at +8500. But we’d have to hope he got enough playing time.
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