Team USA overwhelming favorite in Olympic men’s basketball odds

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Team USA, with Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson offering a sneak peak at what the Golden State Warriors’ superteam will look like during the NBA season, has been winning their pre-Olympic men’s basketball games by more than 30 points.

The Americans are always the favorite before the Olympics, but having their odds shrink all the way to -1600 is eye-opening. Part of that is that even though international basketball isn’t a priority to most NBA stars, the sting of Team USA’s bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics is still fresh enough that players are determined to not let it happen again.

The other reason for those -1600 odds is the lack of an identifiable challenger in Rio. The only team capable of stopping Team USA is probably Team USA. Between the Warriors’ trio and F Carmelo Anthony, who is playing in his fourth Olympics, Team USA will likely be built around perimeter shooting, which can be boom or bust. Team USA has only two true centers, DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan, to chase after offensive rebounds.

Spain, which earned the silver medal in 2008 and 2012, is the nominal second favorite at +1000. Half of Spain’s roster, including C Pau Gasol and PG Jose Calderon, are over 30 years old. International basketball officials tolerate a lot of physical play, and the short turnaround time between games can take a toll on 30-somethings. Spain also boasts Minnesota Timberwolves PG Ricky Rubio, and usually plays well as a unit.

Veteran San Antonio Spurs PG Tony Parker and Charlotte Hornets SF Nicolas Batum willed France to the last Olympic berth by leading it to victory in a qualifying tournament in the Philippines in early July. On top of battling through that all-or-nothing qualifier, France has also added Utah Jazz C Rudy Gobert as a double-digit rebounder and shot blocker. Unlike Spain, France faces Team USA in group play on August 14, which hurts their chance of surprising the Americans in a one-game showdown in the medal round.

Like France, Serbia, which is listed at +2200 on those Rio Olympics odds, earned a lower betting line from the oddsmakers due to the fact it won a qualifying tournament. Denver Nuggets C Nikola Jokic, who is an emerging star, is part of a physical front line.

Two of the South America representatives, host Brazil and Argentina, and perennially solid Lithuania are listed at +2800 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. From there, the board spreads out to Croatia (+5000), Australia (+15000) and China, Nigeria and Venezuela, all at +50000. Venezuela qualified at the FIBA Americas last summer by upsetting Canada.

The tournament begins on August 6 when Team USA plays China, and the gold medal game is on August 21, the final day of the Games.

Cavaliers, Warriors clear leaders on NBA Conference odds boards

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While oddsmakers have an expectation that the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors are on a collision course for a third consecutive NBA Finals clash, there is some interesting movement among the challengers.

Just more than a week out from the start of the playoffs, the Cavaliers are the -300 betting favorites on the Eastern Conference futures while the Warriors’ odds are -250 atop the Western Conference board at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

While LeBron James and the defending champion Cavaliers had a losing record (6-10 straight-up) in March, their victory against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday put them in a good position to finish first overall in the East and have home-court advantage for the first three rounds.

The Celtics (+425), led by PG Isaiah Thomas, draw in as the biggest challenger on the Eastern side. Boston is 20-10 SU over its last 30 games, slightly better than Cleveland’s 18-12 SU mark over the same number of games.

The Cavaliers clearly do have issues, particularly with tightening up their defensive play. An opponent could pounce early in the playoffs before James and Kyrie Irving find a groove.

Both the Washington Wizards (+900) and Toronto Raptors (+1200) are neck-and-neck to earn the No. 3 seed, which might mean playing Boston in the second round. The Wizards have great leadership from PG John Wall. The Raptors will have to rely on their defense – that’s why they got PF Serge Ibaka at the deadline – until PG Kyle Lowry, who’s just back from wrist surgery, is 100 percent.

On the Western Conference board, the Warriors’ odds are slightly better than the -333 they were listed at in late February. The absence of Kevin Durant (sprained MCL), who’s expected back just prior to the playoffs, has enabled SG Klay Thompson to rediscover his all-star form, while two-time MVP Steph Curry has also gone a hot streak.

Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs (+325) are seen as posing the biggest challenge to Golden State, as their price has come down from +500. The red-hot second half that MVP candidate James Harden and the Houston Rockets (+750) have put together has led to their odds dropping from +900.

Oddsmakers see the Western Conference as a three-team race, at most, with the Los Angeles Clippers (+2500) and Utah Jazz (+2500) each drawing very long odds on the NBA betting futures at the sportsbooks.

Archdiocese lets girls back on boys’ CYO hoop team after threats

Jessica Remo/NJ Advance Media via AP
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CLARK, N.J. (AP) — Two girls have been cleared to rejoin a boys’ Catholic youth basketball squad in New Jersey after church officials reversed an earlier decision that the fifth-grade team could not be coed.

Archdiocese of Newark Cardinal Joseph Tobin announced the change Wednesday.

The boys on the St. John’s team in Clark had decided to give up their season rather than play a game without their female teammates. The rest of their season was then forfeited.

The archdiocese had said that Catholic Youth Organization rules state that teams should be boys or girls only. However, NJ.com found that the league rules do not mention whether the teams in St. John’s division — the JV black league — can or cannot be coed.

Archdiocese spokesman Jim Goodness said Tobin believes that the team shouldn’t have been penalized for mistakes that adults responsible for following league rules might have made.

According to Goodness, Tobin asked CYO officials to “study the current league rules regarding participation and team makeup in all age groups” and reinstated the team’s 7-3 record.

Rob Martel, coach and father of one of the girls, fought back tears when he told the team that its season was going to continue and they would be going to the playoffs.

“This is all we ever wanted,” assistant coach Keisha Martel said. “This was never about being defiant or wanting to break, bend or change rules. It was about fairness for these 10 year olds, about finishing the season the way they started — together.”

Tobin said he wanted the children to play for the reasons CYO sports were established. “To provide a source of both recreation and reaffirmation of our Christian faith,” Tobin said.