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Favored Brooklyn Nets attracting big bets to win NBA title

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The Brooklyn Nets franchise hasn’t won a league championship since Julius Erving was dunking on the ABA in 1976. Bettors are betting big money that the Nets’ title drought is about to end.

Entering this year’s playoffs, the loaded Nets are the consensus favorites to win the NBA title, and more money has been bet on Brooklyn than any other team at multiple U.S. sportsbooks.

Brooklyn opened at around 9-1 to win the title and started garnering increased support from bettors in January ahead of its acquisition of James Harden. Seamus Magee, a sports trader for BetMGM, said the sportsbook “saw a wave of money [on the Nets] when rumors suggested Harden would go there.”

The largest reported championship bet on the Nets so far — $100,000 at +250 — was placed March 9 at the William Hill sportsbook at Riverside Casino in Laughlin, Nevada.

At DraftKings’ sportsbook in New Jersey, nearly 50% of the total money wagered on the odds to win the NBA title is on the Nets, including the two largest bets in the pool: $30,000 and $23,000. Brooklyn has attracted more than double the amount of money as has been bet on any other team at DraftKings in New Jersey, the sportsbook reported.

The No. 2-seeded Nets face the seventh-seeded Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs in a series that tips off Saturday.

While the action has been lopsided on the Nets, the odds suggest the playoffs are more wide-open than in recent seasons. The defending-champion Los Angeles Lakers are the second favorites at +425 at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, followed by the LA Clippers (+550), Utah Jazz (+700) and Milwaukee Bucks (+800).

The Lakers, who take on the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs, are the first 7-seed to be favored over a 2-seed in at least the past 30 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Bettors have even taken interest in some of the bigger underdogs like the Atlanta Hawks, who are around 80-1. In late April, a bettor in Colorado placed a $20,000 bet on the Hawks at 100-1 odds to win the championship with DraftKings. And the SuperBook on Thursday reported taking a $10,000 bet on the Denver Nuggets to win the title at 40-1.

“Brooklyn is our biggest liability of the teams that I believe can actually win the title,” said John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook in Las Vegas. “Our No. 1 liability is Atlanta, overall, and our second-largest liability is Golden State.”

The Warriors, who are around 100-1 to win the title, host the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, with the winner earning the eighth seed and advancing to the Western Conference playoffs to face the Jazz.

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Cleveland Cavaliers extend qualifying offer to Jarrett Allen

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CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers extended a qualifying offer Friday to center Jarrett Allen, making him a restricted free agent.

The team had until Aug. 1 to make the offer to Allen, a 23-year-old acquired last season in a trade from Brooklyn and viewed as one of Cleveland’s core pieces.

The Cavs can now match any offer given by other teams to Allen, whose size and athleticism at both ends of the floor makes him enticing.

General manager Koby Altman has expressed his hope to keep Allen in Cleveland long-term.

Allen, who played college ball at Texas, came to the Cavs as part of the blockbuster trade in January that sent star James Harden to the Nets.

Allen’s arrival pushed veteran Andre Drummond to the bench and eventually led to the team buying out the two-time All-Star center’s contract.

Allen averaged 13.2 points and 9.9 rebounds in 51 games — 40 starts — for Cleveland.

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Devin Booker, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday available for Team USA opener vs. France

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TOKYO — The trio of players making the unprecedented jump from the NBA Finals to the Olympics are all scheduled to be in Japan by Saturday.

The hope is for Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday to be available when Team USA opens play Sunday against France, according to coach Gregg Popovich.

After attending the Milwaukee Bucks‘ championship parade Thursday, Middleton and Holiday are scheduled to fly to Seattle on Friday. There, they will join Booker, whose Phoenix Suns they helped eliminate on Tuesday, and take a private plane to Tokyo.

The pivot from being opponents in the NBA playing for the highest stakes to teammates on the national team going for a gold medal has happened over the years but never this suddenly, making it one of the more awkward scenarios in Team USA’s already fascinating history of intersecting star players.

“I would say just understanding competition and that it’s never personal between who you’re going with, unless lines are crossed,” Booker said this week discussing going from foe to teammate with the Bucks’ players. “Those guys aren’t that type and I would never go that way with them, because there’s a high respect level for each other. Representing your country is a whole different dynamic than competing against each other in the NBA Finals, but I can always respect somebody that competes at the highest level.”

With the lengthy procedures for entry into Japan, it is unlikely the new arrivals will get much more than a light walk-through with the rest of Team USA, which has been in Japan since Tuesday. But with an expected tough test against the French, Popovich is planning on using his reinforcements immediately, even if he’s not sure how it will play out.

“I have no idea [how to use them]. I’m not trying to be glib. I’m trying to be transparent,” Popovich said. “Maybe they’ll be OK for the game [Sunday] and it’ll hit them two days later. Maybe we should play them in the first half and see what they’re like.”

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Los Angeles Lakers extend qualifying offer to guard Talen Horton-Tucker

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The Los Angeles Lakers made their first move in what promises to be a busy offseason by extending a qualifying offer to second-year guard Talen Horton-Tucker, the team announced Thursday.

The qualifying offer for Horton-Tucker is $1.9 million, according to ESPN front office insider Bobby Marks, and will make the 20 year old a restricted free agent, allowing the Lakers to match any outside offer to retain their former second-round pick.

Los Angeles has early Bird rights and can re-sign Horton-Tucker for a contract that projects to start at $10.4 million, according to Marks. The contract must last at least two seasons.

Horton-Tucker averaged 9.0 points on 45.8% shooting with 2.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.0 steals in more than 20 minutes per game last season.

The Iowa State product made strides in his second year in the league, memorably filling up the box score with 14 points, 11 assists and three steals in a road win over the Brooklyn Nets in April and played 13 games when he scored 15 points or more, during which the Lakers had an 8-5 record.

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