The Pistons are just a game out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and if they continue their surge, four Central Division teams will be in line to make the postseason. The Central was supposed to boast the class of the East in the Bulls and the Cavs, but as they languish in the middle of the playoff pack, here’s the latest from around the division:
- The Bulls will match any offer sheet that Jimmy Butler would sign this summer, as executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson said in appearance Thursday on ESPN Chicago radio’s Waddle and Silvy program, notes Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com (Twitter link). That’s no surprise, since the Bulls reportedly plan to make Butler a maximum-salary offer of their own that they hope will forestall the restricted free agent from negotiating with any other team. Paxson also confirmed that the Bulls are interested in Ray Allen and have been in contact with his agent, Jim Tanner, notes Bear Heiser of Fox Sports West (on Twitter).
- Commissioner Adam Silver made it clear to Seattle mayor Ed Murray that the NBA envisions the Bucks staying put, dispelling Murray’s notion that the Bucks were a candidate to move if the team failed to make progress on a new arena in Milwaukee, as Murray tells Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times. The Bucks have until fall 2017 to have an arena in place, and if they don’t, the NBA has the option to take control of the team from its new owners. Seattle investor Chris Hansen is facing a November 2017 deadline to secure an NBA team for the city, lest a promise of civic funding expire.
- Kyrie Irving finished fourth in fan voting for the two Eastern Conference starting backcourt spots in the All-Star Game, so he missed out on his best chance to trigger the Derrick Rose rule and up the salaries on the five-year extension that kicks in for him next season. That rule allows players who sign rookie scale extensions to make a starting salary worth approximately 30%, instead of just 25%, of the salary cap. Irving agreed to take only 27.5% if he were to qualify, which can now happen only in the unlikely event he wins MVP this season.