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.”

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?