By Lenn Robbins
It’s no secret that the economy has taken a beating as the pandemic has forced businesses to close, seen workers laid off and had employee’s hours cut. But the business of sports gambling has never been more robust, says Johnny Avello, DraftKings head of sportsbook.
Avello said the season-opening Yankees-Nationals game took in the 1st or 2nd-highest handle of any other baseball game – ever. More than any Yankees-Red Sox game, or any Cardinals-Cubs game. Or any playoff or World Series game. The Giants-Dodgers game took in the fourth highest handle.
“If that’s any indication of what the NBA and NHL is going to be I expect to have record numbers,” said Avello. “People were just looking for the core sports to return. We’ve had golf and that’s done extremely well. UFC has done extremely well. But the core sports, the bettors out there were just waiting for the core sports to return and now they get all three at the same time.”
The NBA returned to action Thursday night with the Pelicans and Jazz playing followed by a possible Western Conference Finals preview with the Lakers and Clippers going at it. The Nets begin play Friday night against the Orlando Magic in a battle for the final playoff spot in the East. The Nets have a half-game lead over Orlando and a seemingly safe six-game bulge over the Wizards.
But this is not the Nets team fans expected. Kevin Durant made the only sane decision by confirming he would not rush back from Achilles tendon surgery. Kyrie Irving was lost for the season in late-February with shoulder surgery. Deandre Jordan opted out after testing positive for the coronavirus, as did Spencer Dinwiddie. Wilson Chandler opted out for family reasons. Jamal Crawford is doubtful due to conditioning concerns.
As a result, the Nets went from one-point underdogs to six-point underdogs.
“There’s a couple of reasons for that move,’’ said Avello. “First of all, a couple of players for the Nets [we thought] earlier in the year [Kyrie] Irving and [Kevin] Durant could possibly play but those guys are not. And you’ve got to give Orlando a little bit of a home field advantage playing in their backyard. So that was the reason for the move.”
AND ONE: I asked Avello what were the odds of the NBA naming a “Bubble Tournament MVP Award after Lou Williams, the Clippers guard who left the bubble to get dinner from Magic City, am Orlando strip club.
“It’s unfortunate because they’re playing the Lakers. [Patrick] Beverley is questionable. I think he’s going to give it a go. [Montrezl] Harrell is out. And you’re going against this team you have to beat. One of the best teams in the entire league. You’re going to miss that series? Crazy.”