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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, January 25, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Unless you’ve been in a cave for a few weeks, you know that one of the biggest recent stories in sports is the collapse of the Los Angeles Lakers. A team that many thought had purchased the Western Conference championship in the offseason by bringing in Dwight Howard and Steve Nash is now a longshot to even make the playoffs. What’s gone untold amidst the drama is the SPORTS BETTING angle of this story. Oddsmakers keep pricing the Lakers like they’re a playoff contender!

How could oddsmakers have missed this big story?! Let’s run through some recent results, particularly games where the Lakers played good teams…

*This past Wednesday Night, the Lakers were only three-point underdogs on the road at Memphis. Home court advantage is worth three points by itself in the NBA. So, the market was saying that the Lakers and Grizzlies were even. Well, that’s CRAZY! Memphis is a lot better than the Lakers this year, and it’s not even close. Memphis coasted to a 106-93 victory.

*This past Monday Night, in a game you probably watched on TNT, the Lakers were close to pick-em in Chicago against the Bulls. That suggests the Lakers are a better team than Chicago because home court counts for something. Plus, the Lakers were in a back-to-back after losing in Toronto the day before. Chicago is a playoff team. The Lakers were priced as being even better. Of course, Chicago won that game 95-83

*Last Thursday, in another TV game, the Lakers were actually a small favorite over the defending World Champion Miami Heat! The Heat were in a back-to-back spot, and haven’t been playing up to their full capabilities this year. The market made the Lakers the favorite, in a game they’d lose 99-90.

Why are oddsmakers missing the boat by so much on the Lakers whenever they play good teams? That’s three straight double digit non-covers.

Clearly the oddsmakers respect the talent of the starting lineup. And, they know that locals in Nevada like betting on Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. But, public action isn’t THAT heavy in January. Note that the Lakers are now 16-25-1 overall against the spread this season, providing a great money-making opportunity for those with the courage to fade them. You get the sense that oddsmakers believe the Lakers are going to turn things around the next time they take the floor. Every time!

Should you KEEP fading the Lakers? It’s easy to get duped by all the nice things the players keep saying to the press. They were supposedly about to “turn it on” this week, only to see things get even worse. Maybe they’ll cover Friday Night at home against Utah. Maybe they won’t. We suggest you keep your eyes on the following fundamentals.

*Kobe Bryant is having a great offensive season, truly inspirational. His defense has become awful because he’s saving his legs for scoring. He’s often out of position off the ball, and slow to react in help position. Defense wins championships. The most important player on the Lakers has stopped playing defense with a passion.

*Dwight Howard is clearly still being bothered by his bad back. But, he’s also clearly NOT A LAKER in terms of that has always meant. Showtime may have been fun, but those guys focused on taking care of business first. You WON, then you celebrated. Howard acts like he’s there for the fun, and doesn’t care either way about game results. His lack of maturity has been exposed to such a degree that it’s hard to see him staying with the Lakers in the future. He needs to grow up or move on. He’s made people are complaining about him instead of being mad about the losing.

*Steve Nash is too old to play defense against today’s modern young point guards, and he’s most lethal as a ball distributor to guys who can hit open shots. He’s not a good fit offensively for the way the Lakers space the floor. He’s not a good fit defensively because the team is already so weak on that side of the ball. The Lakers didn’t acquire MVP Steve Nash, who compiled fantastic stats on teams that didn’t emphasize defense. They acquired old Steve Nash, at a time when poor defense just kills you in the West.

*Pau Gasol can be dangerous in the post, as we saw again last summer in the Olympics. He’s been taken out of the post because that’s where Dwight Howard needs to be. Gasol is a champion. The Lakers have removed his strengths and put him in position where his weaknesses are most exposed.

*We might as well add head coach Mike D’antoni in here. That’s another big money acquisition that turned out to be a big flop. How can you run and gun with a bunch of older players and no bench?! Could there be a worse possible roster for his system? How can you improve your defense by bringing in a guy who doesn’t emphasize defense?

Take those ingredients…stir them all up…and you have a disaster that doesn’t have an easy solution. Well, the solution is to either trade a star so that your component parts fit better…or hire a coach who can exploit the strengths of this roster without being overwhelmed by its weaknesses. That would mean admitting a mistake, which is not something Lakers management has ever been very good at. The new man in charge seems even less likely to admit his errors.

Smart handicappers have been fading the Lakers this season, and will keep monitoring the Vegas lines to determine if and when that value finally disappears. Upcoming games for Kobe and Company:

Tonight: vs. Utah

Sunday: vs. Oklahoma City (on ABC)

Tuesday: vs. New Orleans

Wednesday: at Phoenix (back-to-back)

That Phoenix game starts a seven-game road trip that will send the Lakers all over the country. It’s the kind of trip that champions deal with (as San Antonio does every year with their “rodeo” trip), but one that can exacerbate problems on an imploding team. If the Lakers are 17-25 now, and will only be favored to be 19-26 at the beginning of that trip. It’s either going to be the event that brings them back to .500 in dramatic fashion…or the trip that blows the season to smithereens.

JIM HURLEY has been blowing Vegas to smithereens for more than 25 years! He has a great Friday planned for his clients, and a huge weekend that will help build your bankroll for next week’s Super Bowl.

Other games of interest Friday:

Boston at Atlanta

Detroit at Miami (Detroit’s gotten hot ATS!)

Brooklyn at Memphis (Nets on fire under Carlesimo)

Golden State at Chicago

Then, Saturday brings a flood of great college matchups:

Syracuse at Villanova

Louisville at Georgetown (Cards just got upset)

Maryland at Duke (Duke just got ROUTED in an upset!)

Minnesota at Wisconsin (Gophers just got upset)

New Mexico at San Diego State

Temple at Butler

North Carolina at NC State

You can always purchase game day selections right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. Remember to check on combination packages with the Super Bowl when you call.

Back with your tomorrow for college basketball coverage. The early stages of the ROAD TO MARCH MADNESS have already been packed with thrills and profits. Keep the money rolling in with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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