Great expectations have followed LeBron James everywhere he’s been, so it makes sense that those lofty standards were multiplied when he decided to take his talents to South Beach.
The Miami Heat went from +2,000 to +600 to win the NBA championship after King James announced he was joining forces with All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The line at the MGM Mirage has been bet down to +140 entering their season debut Tuesday night.
The new-look Heat visit the Boston Celtics who were six minutes away from locking up their second championship in three seasons last June. The C’s brought back their own Big Three and bolstered their bench with the signings of Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal, as well as combo guard Delonte West.
And still, it’s the Heat who are 1-point chalk heading into Tuesday’s showdown.
“Boston should be a small favorite in this one,” says Jeff Stoneback, senior oddsmaker for MGM and Mirage in Las Vegas.
The Celtics aren’t favored Tuesday because of public bettors. Yes, those same people who are saying Miami will win 70 games this season and maybe even top the 1995-96 Bulls’ record for 72 wins. (Oddsmakers set their season win total at 63.5 and a lot of shops are now dealing 64.5). Those people will bet the Heat every chance they get and that’s why bookmakers can count the number of games Miami will be a dog this season on one finger.
“When they play at the Lakers, (the Heat) will be a short underdog,” Stoneback says. “Maybe a pick (coin-toss game) at Oklahoma City. But that’s about it.”
To put things in perspective: The 1999-2000 Lakers, who won 67 games in the regular season and were clearly a dominant team, were not favored in nine games. The Heat might, might
be an underdog once or twice this season.
And you won’t even find the biggest line inflation for Miami games against the league’s best teams. Those spots will come when the Heat play the T-Wolves, Raptors and Cavaliers.
“They’d probably be about a 15.5-point favorite,” Mike Seba senior oddsmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants says about Miami’s odds if it was hosting Minnesota Tuesday night. “We can’t go too much higher than that, otherwise the sharps come in and there’s not enough public action in the regular season to balance the action out.”
Ah yes, the sharps. We polled the professional handicappers at Covers Experts
to find out how they’d approach the Heat early on and the overwhelming response was “wait and see”.
“I'm certainly not going to back the Heat right out of the gate,” pro capper Sean Murphy
says. “It will be almost impossible to get a fair line given all of the preseason hype. I'm also not interested in fading them - this is a classic case of when taking a wait-and-see approach can pay off.”
And with good reason. Miami’s Dream Team is having a nightmarish preseason. Dwyane Wade – sore hamstring and all – just got back from a custody battle in Chicago, LeBron James missed some games with his own hamstring injury and sharp shooter Mike Miller is out for the first two months of the season with a broken thumb in his shooting hand.
"The good thing is me, Chris and D-Wade played together so much, and I think that's underrated how much we've played together the last four or five summers,'' James told the Miami Herald
, regarding the trio's Team USA participation. "We can play off each other and