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Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks

Count Mark Cuban among those who see the NFL becoming less and less popular in the future. And it has nothing to do with the national anthem protests by players that have pushed a handful of fans away.

Instead, the outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner pointed to the health and safety of the sport as the No. 1 reason for its decline. The national anthem protests, in Cuban’s mind, are more of a short-term issue.

Cuban referenced a study from this summer that found 110 of 111 brains of deceased NFL players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly called CTE, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head. Dr. Ann McKee’s study was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

“The NFL has got real structural problems,” Cuban said during an interview on 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday. “I have an 8-year-old son — I would not let my son play football. CTE’s a problem. … You can’t push something like CTE under the rug.”

Cuban mentioned meeting with NCAA officials over the latest college basketball scandal, and the topic of football participation came up. Cuban said football participation is “down significantly” in all the SEC states.

“They’re going to have to go global,” Cuban said of football grooming players. “Half of NFL rosters (in the future) are going to be international guys. That’s a bigger issue for the NFL longer term, and I don’t know how to fix that.”

Cuban has criticized the NFL before, memorably saying: “Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.”

He stands by that statement regarding football’s future.

“They’re on path to be absolutely true,” Cuban said. “Because they haven’t been able to solve that (CTE) problem, they’re going to lose participants and they’re going to lose people watching. … I just don’t think kids are going to be as excited about football as we were growing up and that’s a long-term problem.”

Cuban also criticized the NFL for having too many games, particularly Thursday Night Football where the games have largely been underwhelming in recent years.

“People question the brand, question the quality of the brand,” Cuban said.

Even though the NFL faces well-documented challenges, Cuban made it clear that the NBA isn’t immune to them either.
Cuban acknowledged that it’s more difficult for every professional sports league to get kids excited and interested in their game and teams. That’s why he’s trying to lure more fans to American Airlines Center this season by offering more than 4,000 seats for $19 or less.

“We’ve got to be more aggressive in creating young Mavericks fans, young NBA fans,” Cuban said. “I see the NFL pricing themselves out of families, which is going to make it very, very hard for them to develop young fans. We all have that challenge of how do we turn young kids, boys and girls, into hardcore NBA and Mavericks fans? That’s going to be a huge challenge for all of us going forward.

“(We want it to be) where going to a Mavs game is competitive with going to a movie or going to a high school football game.”

Lonzo Ball, Ben Simmons (NBA) Rookie of the Year NBA Rookie Season wins.

Lakers

Lakers

A ballyhooed NBA rookie class has caused disagreement among Las Vegas oddsmakers.

William Hill’s Nevada sportsbook on Wednesday opened Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball as the favorite to win Rookie of the Year at 9-5. The next day, the Westgate SuperBook went with Philadelphia 76ers forward Ben Simmons as the favorite at 5-2.

Dallas Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr. and 76ers guard Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 overall pick, are next at 4-1 and 13-2, respectively. Sacramento Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox and Boston Celtics small forward Jayson Tatum are each listed at 8-1, rounding out the players with odds in the single digits at William Hill.

Simmons sat out last season, recovering from foot surgery, but is expected to make his debut this year and spearhead a Sixers squad with playoff aspirations.

“We expect Philadelphia to exceed the Lakers in wins and make the playoffs in the East, with Simmons having better stats [than Ball],” Jeff Sherman, assistant manager at the Westgate, told ESPN in a text message. “Had Simmons come out in this loaded class, he still would have been the No 1 pick in the draft.”

Simmons and the 76ers are currently favorites to make the playoffs at the Westgate. Ball and the Lakers are 6-1 underdogs to reach the postseason in the rugged Western Conference.

This will be the first season that Nevada sportsbooks will offer betting on the NBA Rookie of the Year and regular-season MVP. William Hill made the request to gaming control and, upon approval, opened betting on the awards Wednesday.

“With so much attention on the rookie class and the stars of the league, this is a fantastic year to start offering them,” Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill U.S., said in a release.

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook opened as the favorite to win the regular-season MVP. Westbrook, who averaged a triple-double last season on his way to winning the MVP, is listed at 5-2 at William Hill.

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant is next at 4-1, followed by Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James at 6-1 and San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard at 13-2. Houston Rockets guard James Harden is 15-2.

Released the NBA schedule, including the main free agent for the first time to visit the old team.

Jimmy Butler and Gordon Hayward will have to wait until 2018 to return to their old stomping grounds, but Paul George will see the Pacers before Christmas.

The NBA released its schedule Monday, and the ESPN and ABC television schedules include Butler’s return to Chicago, Hayward’s reunion with Utah and George’s first trip to Indiana after all three stars moved during the offseason.

George was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder after he made it clear that he would not re-sign with the Pacers when he becomes a free agent next summer. George and MVP teammate Russell Westbrook will visit the Pacers on Dec. 13 in a game that will air on ESPN.

Chicago and Utah will have to wait longer to welcome back their former stars. It will be one big former Bulls reunion on ESPN in Chicago on Feb. 9 when Butler, Taj Gibson and coach Tom Thibodeau face the Bulls. Chicago traded Butler and the 16th overall pick (Justin Patton) to Minnesota for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the No. 7 overall pick (Lauri Markkanen).

Jazz fans will see Hayward, who signed with the Boston Celtics, on March 28 in a game on ESPN.

Chris Paul will be back in Los Angeles to visit his former team, the Clippers, for the first time as a member of the Houston Rockets on Jan. 15.

Excluding the opening-week and Christmas games that were revealed last week, here are some other notable matchups that were revealed for next season:

On Oct. 26, New Orleans Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins gets his wish to return to Sacramento and play against his former team. Cousins has been looking forward to this game since he was traded by the Kings on All-Star Sunday.

The Rockets play the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 1 (ESPN). If Carmelo Anthony is still in New York, he will face the team that he was willing to waive his no-trade clause for, only to see the Knicks hold out for a better deal.

The Brooklyn Nets visit the Lakers in D’Angelo Russell’s return to Los Angeles on Nov. 3. The Lakers traded Russell to Brooklyn — in a deal involving Brook Lopez — to make room for Lonzo Ball.

Joel Embiid will face Ball for the first time when the Philadelphia 76ers visit the Lakers on Nov. 15 (ESPN). Embiid and LaVar Ball, Lonzo’s outspoken father, traded social media jabs during the summer. Also, No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz faces Ball, the No. 2 pick, for the first time in the NBA.

The Lakers are on ESPN 11 times this season, including on Nov. 22 when they visit the Sacramento Kings for a budding rivalry showdown between Ball and fifth overall pick De’Aaron Fox. Fox was disappointed when Ball was held out of a highly anticipated showdown at the Las Vegas Summer League in July.

On Jan. 3, the Thunder visit the Lakers (ESPN). Considering that George made it no secret that he originally wanted to become a Laker before being traded, this game will have plenty of buzz. The Lakers and Magic Johnson are gearing toward a big free-agency summer in 2018. George will be a free agent, and Westbrook could be too if he opts not to sign a supermax extension. Both are from Southern California.

The second of two regular-season matchups between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers will be played Jan. 15 in Cleveland. The first game is set for Christmas Day.

On Jan. 20, the Thunder visit the Cavaliers in an ABC game.

On March 11, LeBron James makes his annual trip to play the Lakers in Los Angeles (ESPN). There will be plenty of hype surrounding James’ future and the possibility of him becoming a Laker next summer. James can opt out of his contract after this season, and he has been the subject of speculation with the Lakers preparing for their big superstar shopping spree.

For the first time in league history, the schedule does not have any team playing four games in five nights. This is part of the NBA’s effort to cut down on injuries and reduce the number of games in which teams rest healthy players.

Back-to-back slates also have been reduced to an average of 14.4 per team, down from 16.3 per team last season. No team has more than 16 back-to-backs this season.