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.”

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.