Between players being rested and the lack of motivation for some teams, betting on the NBA has been especially tough
The NFL instituted a meaningful rule several years back. It required all head coaches to disclose injury reports with certain players barred from participating that specific week 72 hours before the game. The league utilized their favorite phrase "to protect the integrity of the game" but nobody has ever been fooled. We all know it was to "protect" gamblers and especially experienced lines makers from making judgement errors. You could call it the democracy of even-sided wagering.
Fast forward to current times and the NBA is equally challenged but currently mum about it. Even progressive NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who has taken a bold stance toward legalizing gambling, might be perplexed on what to do. If I was a reporter inn the locker room, I'd be bold enough to raise the question. "How can we set fair and accurate lines for the last 10-15 games of the season when we don't know who the hell will be playing?" Worse, what motivation do many teams have for winning or losing? Uh oh. That could be a recipe for potential disaster.
NBA Ticket Value
The sports shows are buzzing lately about fans getting shafted buying full price tickets months ago for games where their favorite stars are resting for the long playoffs. Little Johnny is showing up for a Cavs game with his Lebron jersey, but Lebron James could likely be wearing his designer clothes on the bench.
Perhaps better luck going to a Golden State game. Due to Kevin Durant's injury, the Warriors now have some extra motivation to finish atop the standings to insure full home court advantage for the playoffs. But what was billed as the "best game of the season" and got prime-time billing for ABC two weeks ago on Saturday night, turned out to be the NBA season's biggest clunker when Golden State faced San Antonio.
Check out the pre-game injury report. Kawhi Leonard (concussion protocol), Tony Parker (back problems), LaMarcus Aldridge (minor heart arrhythmia), and Dejounte Murray (groin) all missed the game for San Antonio, while Kevin Durant (MCL sprain), Stephen Curry (rest), Klay Thompson (rest), Draymond Green (rest), and Andre Iguodala (rest) didn't play for Golden State. You'd have to feel sorry for the fan who paid $200, claiming a second level seat for this?
The odds makers were in a tizzy. Most preferred sportsbooks had the Spurs a -10.5 to -11-point favorite over the Warriors. It was unknown exactly what both head coaches, Greg Popovich and Steve Kerr, were going to do, how many minutes they were going to play key starters, etc. This turned out to be the ultimate "line was telling you something" opportunity as the Spurs dusted the Warriors 107-85 in an easy cover. At one point in the game the Spurs were up by 30 points! With all typical starters playing perhaps this is pick-em line or maybe San Antonio -2, playing at home.
The problem not only affects teams in no motivation spots involving playoff position but NBA teams hopelessly out of the playoff race as well.
Thursday evening's Brooklyn-Phoenix match-up of the league's worst puts a typical spotlight on this situation. Top online sportsbooks including Bovada, BetOnline and Diamond Sports had the game listed with the Nets a -5 favorite. It's hard to imagine the Nets being a favorite over anybody with legitimate reason asking which team really wants to win this game.
At stake is much more motivation to lose, cementing better "ping-pong ball" position to achieve the NBA's #1 draft choice. Will both coaches cleverly balance minutes for several players in disguising their efforts to win? For some information, bettors can view injuries and updates involving all NBA games at popular info sites like vegasinsider and StatFox.
Still no one really can predict how much effort outside of pure pride players have to give their best. It appears Brooklyn has the top (or bottom) draft strategy spot locked up at 14-56 and you could hardly give them any home court advantage. The Suns rested T.J. Warren (left foot contusion), Ronnie Price (lower left leg contusion), Dragan Bender (right ankle surgery), Eric Bledsoe (rest), Tyson Chandler (rest) and Brandon Knight (rest). They got smoked 126-98 by the worst team in the league.
Here's hoping Commissioner Adam Silver recognizes the problem with all the media attention it's receiving, No doubt he will. In a memo this week, Silver informed teams that the issue will be a prime topic of discussion at the next NBA board of governors meeting April 6 in New York and warned of "significant penalties" for teams that don't abide by the league's standing rules for providing "notice to the league office, their opponent, and the media immediately upon a determination that a player will not participate in a game due to rest."
Beyond season tickets, there must be some solution to refunding tickets for late-season games where obvious starters will not be playing for non-injury reasons. The bigger fear is putting huge control in a head coach's hands deciding obvious outcome of a game, win or lose. That could lead to a potential enormous scandal, whether true or not. And with the cloud finally lifted from referee Tim Donaghy's mess 10 years ago in 2007, it would be the last thing the ultra-popular NBA would need.
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, inlcuding previews and picks from Glenn, click here.