Cavaliers coach Bickerstaff recounts physical threats he got from frustrated gamblers

Detroit Pistons v Cleveland Cavaliers
Detroit Pistons v Cleveland Cavaliers

This week, it was reported the NBA is leaning heavily into its relationship with online sports books — fans (in states where it's legal) will be able to watch NBA League Pass games with a betting overlay and be linked to bets in the app through DraftKings or FanDuel.

Plenty of coaches, players and others around the league would like the NBA to pump the breaks on this relationship with gambling entities, take a step back and look at the consequences. They think sports gambling has crossed the line. Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff is one of them and told this story about something that happened last season, via Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

"I have had my own instances with some of the sports gamblers," Bickerstaff said Wednesday night. "They got my telephone number and were sending me crazy messages about where I live and my kids and all that stuff. It is a dangerous game and a fine like that we're walking for sure...

"No doubt it's crossed the line," Bickerstaff said. "I'm standing up there and we may have a 10-point lead and the spread is 11 and people are yelling at me to leave the guys in so that we can cover the spread. It's ridiculous. I understand the business side of it and the nature of the business of it. But it's something I believe has gone too far."

This came a day after Pacers All-Star Tyrese Haliburton said that his social media mentions are filled with gamblers who see him as a "prop."

Haliburton's comments sparked a conversation around the league, which included the Heat's Erik Spoelstra (who was in Cleveland to face the Cavaliers).

"I do think it's somewhat contradictory," Spoelstra said before tipoff Wednesday night. "I think it treads on a weird line. We had an incident behind our bench last year with (Victor) Oladipo. Somebody was screaming. Security had to take him away. The game was already over, and evidently, he didn't shoot an open 3 at the end of the game. The game was already decided, and this fan was totally beside himself, and he was a gambler. He had money on whatever the score was. There's just a lot of unintended consequences with that from a security standpoint that I'm not sure everybody totally understood."

The NBA is far from the only league leaning into its relationships with legal sports books — the NFL has a similar in-app betting screen overlay as the NBA is about to add. The NBA is a business, it is always looking for new revenue streams, and a connection with legal sports betting companies can do that. If there's a buck to be made, NBA owners are interested.

That said, the NBA and other professional leagues are going to have to balance that money against the impact on players, coaches and the sport as a whole. There are fundamental questions to be considered, ones that go beyond simply trying to find a balance between the sides.