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.

Derek Fisher hired to coach WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks

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LOS ANGELES — Former NBA player and coach Derek Fisher has been hired to coach the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.

The Sparks announced the move Wednesday, five says after longtime WNBA coach Brian Agler resigned.

Fisher helped the Los Angeles Lakers win five NBA titles during his 18-season playing career and served as president of the players’ union. He coached the New York Knicks from 2014-2016.

“I’m excited to be the new head coach of the LA Sparks,” Fisher said in a team statement. “There is no finer organization in the WNBA and I can’t wait to work with our ownership group, front office, talented players and staff to cement a culture of sustained excellence, which is what LA basketball fans demand – and deserve.”

The 44-year-old Fisher is the 12th coach in Sparks history.

“Derek is a great basketball mind who brings a ton of high-level experience to our team,” two-time MLP Candace Parker said. “I look forward to working with someone with championship pedigree and who has a track record of strong leadership. Derek has been a strong supporter of women’s basketball for quite some time, so it’s nice to officially welcome him.”

WNBA President Lisa Borders stepping down

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NEW YORK – WNBA President Lisa Borders is stepping down.

The league announced Tuesday she will become the first president and CEO of Time’s Up – an organization dedicated to safe, fair and dignified work for women. Borders says it was fully her decision to leave.

NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum will oversee the WNBA on an interim basis while a search for a successor begins,

Borders joined the league in 2016. She helped the WNBA grow in areas such as live streaming of games on Twitter and the availability of one-day daily fantasy.

Borders is the third executive to leave the league in the last six months. The league is coming off a season in which it had its highest TV ratings in four years. It begins its 23rd season next year.