NBA: Boo

The NBA — some say appropriately — chose Halloween as its 2006-2007 coming-out party.

A quartet of teams took the court for the first time in regular season play, though this momentous event was slightly clouded in the holiday hullabaloo and current NFL wars.

“People are nevertheless into football,” said New Frontier bookmaking chief Tony Nevil.

“It’ll be that way for three or four weeks more, at the minimum until the end of the colleges.

“These are weeks that pretty much will define the NFL also.

“Interest in basketball, pro and college, will pick up when they (colleges) start playing those late November tournaments.

“I once heard a man say, ‘You start the NBA in short sleeves and end it in short sleeves too.’

“That’s so true.”

Nevil noted a goodly proportion of early NBA action focuses on totals.

“It’s a struggle those first four or so weeks as teams work out their rotations,” he said.

“I kind of look at it as an extension of the preseason.

“It’s a time when handicappers follow teams in local newspapers (on the Internet).”

November also is when the basketball faithful look months ahead to spring’s playoffs and start speculating on which clubs will win the league’s conferences.

Some Las Vegans may keep an already closer eye on the league than normal, because the city will great number February’s 2007 NBA All-Star Game.

That once-presumed unreachable level was achieved largely due to efforts by the Maloof Family, owners of the Palms Hotel and Casino in addition as the Sacramento Kings.

Friends of NBA Commissioner David Stern since George Maloof Sr. owned the Houston Rockets in the 1980s, the clan had little trouble convincing Stern to stage the annual extravagaza smack in the middle of America’s sports gambling Mecca, once bookmakers agreed not to accept action on the East-West talent showcase — a stance considered a bit hypocritical by some.

Early Finals futures action is, as usual, spread around.

Teams garnering the most play are those that have dominated in recent years, though a few longer shots are getting wagering attention.

“The Spurs, Mavs, Suns and Heat,” Hilton SuperBook oddsmaker/supervisor Jeff Sherman said as he surveyed computer listings that told the top contenders.

Defending champion Miami and San Antonio, which has won two titles in for years, opened as 4/1 Hilton co-favorites, with Phoenix close behind at 9/2 and Dallas at 5/1.

Detroit, the 2004 titlist, was posted at 8/1.

The Spurs are 4/1 current favorites, with the Suns, Mavs and Heat at 9/2 and Pistons at 9/1.

Sherman clicked off Cleveland, Chicago and the Los Angeles Clippers when asked to name clubs regarded as long shots that are getting bites.

The Cavaliers have gone from 15/1 to 11/1 to win the Championship as expectations of LeBron James continue to rise.

The Bulls, who stampeded on the Heat 108-66 in their Tuesday opener, are nevertheless 15/1, while the Clippers keep at 40/1.

The Los Angeles Lakers, always a local favorite, also are nevertheless 40/1.

Nevil figures he’s fairly safe predicting the Suns, who lost 114-106 Tuesday to the Lakers, who were playing without Kobe Bryant, will win the West.

“They’re young, aggressive and, if they stay healthy, are going to be tough to beat on the left coast,” Nevil said.

He feels he’s going out on a limb in forecasting Cleveland to cop the East.

“They’re a long shot, but I’ll take LeBron and the Boys,” Nevil said.

“Maybe this will be their year.

“They’re young and hungry enough.”

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