Central Notes: Butler, Marion, Harris

With restricted free agency looming next summer, Jimmy Butler has emerged as a solid two-way player for the Bulls, reports Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com. Butler has maintained a reputation as a solid defender since he entered the league, but he has shown a potent offensive game this season, including a career-high 32 points in Saturday’s loss to the Pacers. “Last year was an up-and-down year because of all the injuries,” said Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau. “But he’s healthy, he was in great shape this summer, he got lighter, I think he understands the league really well. He’s strong on both sides of the ball and he’s scoring a lot of different ways. He’s getting to the line, shoot, probably six more times, eight more times.” Butler and the Bulls were unable to reach a deal on an extension before the October 31st deadline, with Chicago reportedly offering about $11MM annually and Butler seeking $13MM a year.

More from around the Central Division:

  • An early-season lineup change is paying dividends for Shawn Marion and the Cavaliers, writes Chris Fedor of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Cleveland is 4-1 since Marion replaced Dion Waiters as a starter, and the 15-year veteran’s contributions are extending far beyond the box score. “Shawn has taken to it and the team has taken to it,” Cavaliers coach David Blatt said after Saturday’s win over the Hawks. “I really thought Shawn did a fabulous job tonight. He held maybe the best three-point shooter in the NBA [Kyle Korver] to no shots. He didn’t get any shots. That had a big effect on the game.” Marion joined the Cavs during the offseason as a free agent, signing a one-year veteran’s minimum deal.
  • Marion’s time as a starter could be short-lived, as rookie guard Joe Harris may soon force another change to the lineup, writes Jason Lloyd of The Akron Beacon Journal. The rookie second-round pick should be starting games in a couple of weeks, or possibly sooner, a source tells Lloyd. Harris has impressed the team with his energy, defense and ball movement, and has an important supporter in teammate LeBron James“Joe Harris is going to be a big piece for our team,” James said. “He’s going to have his rookie mistakes, we know that, but mistakes can be covered when you play hard. That’s one thing that kid is doing.”
  • The Pistons‘ offense will continue to run through Andre Drummond, Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy insisted to David Mayo of MLive. Drummond and Van Gundy had a meeting Friday morning, after which the third-year center expressed frustration over his role in the offense and said he plans to focus more on defense and rebounding.  “We’re not going to go away from him,” Van Gundy said. “I think what he’s got to do, he can’t get frustrated when he’s not getting the ball. Nothing should take away from his rebounding.” Drummond is still on his rookie contract and under the Pistons’ control through the 2016/17 season.
  • With all the offseason turnover in Milwaukee, the biggest change in the Bucks has been an improved dedication to defense, coach Jason Kidd tells Charles F. Gardner of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel“You can look at the individual but you take it as a team, the pride defensively,” said Kidd, the first-year Bucks coach whose rights were dealt from Brooklyn to Milwaukee during the summer in exchange for two second-round picks. “When someone gets beat, your teammate trusts there is someone there to help. And we’re starting to end plays by getting the rebound.” Entering Saturday, the Bucks were third in the NBA in defensive efficiency and points allowed.

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