Thanks to MVP candidate LeBron James suffering a dreaded high ankle sprain over the weekend, some Vegas oddsmakers no longer believe the King will retain his throne atop the NBA.
Already missing star forward Anthony Davis, the third-place Los Angeles Lakers will be without James indefinitely and are in danger of falling even further down the standings in the Western Conference.
Losers of two straight and now only five games ahead of the eighth-place Dallas Mavericks, the Lakers are no longer the favorites to win the NBA title, having been surpassed by the Brooklyn Nets at many sportsbooks according to ESPN.
Following the injury to James over the weekend, the VP of risk at the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, Jeff Sherman, moved the Nets to 2-1 to win the NBA championship and dropped the Lakers to 4-1, their longest odds of the season.
“You’re going to see the Lakers as a large underdog on the road and a small underdog at home,” Sherman told ESPN. “You take those two guys [James and Davis] off the team and it’s going to be a fight for a playoff spot.”
It’s unclear how long James will be sidelined, but it it seems likely the Lakers will be without their top star for at least a few weeks, if not a month or more. Los Angeles has been playing without Davis for more than a month as he battles a calf strain and tendonosis in his right leg. Davis is expected to miss at least another week.
“I’ve nudged the Lakers’ odds up a little and lowered some of the other Western Conference teams,” Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading for William Hill, told ESPN. “But can’t go too crazy as [James] has got plenty of time to get healthy before the playoffs, if he needs it. If it comes out that that injury is a lot worse, then we’ll have to make some major adjustments.”
Without Davis and James, who is in a walking boot, the Lakers will need to completely change the way they play if they want to remain competitive, according to point guard Dennis Schroder.
“I think how we played before with them two on the court, it’s totally opposite now, I think,” Schroder said after LA lost to the second-place Phoenix Suns on Sunday. “I think we got to move the ball, we got to play with more pace. On the defensive end, we got to be more scrappy. And, yeah, I mean everybody who is coming on the floor has got to be confident to knock down the shot or to impact the game on the defensive end.”