LeBron to Cleveland rumors have bettors putting money on Cavs to win it all next season (and Vegas backtracking)

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Winning at sports gambling is about taking smart risks, ones that could pay off with a nice reward. Find the good odds where you think the bookmakers (or the betting public pushing them) is off target then jump on it.

After the NBA Finals last season, when future bet odds on next season’s NBA champion came out, the Cleveland Cavaliers were between 40-1 and 60-1, depending on where you looked. Then the LeBron James return to Cleveland rumors started picking up steam — and gamblers saw the value and started putting money on the Cavs while the odds were still high.

Doesn’t matter that LeBron has yet to make a decision (and the Heat remain confident), and it doesn’t matter that if LeBron picks Cleveland that is a young, untested team that may not be able to win it all year one. LeBron instantly makes any team a contender and if you can place money on a potential contender at long odds, it’s worth the risk.

People did, particularly fans (these tend not to be large, professional bets), and Vegas is freaking out just a little, as David Purdum wrote for ESPN.

More bets have been placed on the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the 2015 NBA title than on any other team at the Las Vegas Superbook.

“They are our biggest liability right now,” said MGM VP of Race and Sports Jay Rood. “We took a dime ($1,000) on them at 40-1.”

The Cavs are currently down to 10-1 at the MGM.

For bookmakers, sports gambling is about covering their risks, and the Cavs have become a risk to cost them money.

You can find the odds now and place a bet at online casinos as well as some spots in Vegas, although a number of casinos have taken down NBA futures betting until free agency plays out (some casinos, such as the Wynn, have had that as their policy for years).

If LeBron jumps to Cleveland, the Cavs still are not likely to be favorited against the best of the West (and maybe Chicago, depending upon who they do or do not land in free agency). That according to Las Vegas Superbook assistant manager and head NBA oddsmaker Jeff Sherman, speaking in that same ESPN piece.

If James were return to Cleveland, where he spent the first seven seasons of his NBA career, Sherman said he would adjust the Cavs’ odds to around 8-1.

“They are such a young team,” Sherman said of the Cavaliers. “They would be better positioned for the next season than this upcoming one.”

Devin Booker drops 70 points for Suns in loss to Celtics (VIDEO)

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Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.

Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.

His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.

Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies to finish amazing alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.

As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.

Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.

Former Hawk Pero Antic’s celebration accidentally punches teammate in face in Eruoleague (VIDEO)

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Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.

Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

Ouch.

That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.

Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.

(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.