Central Notes: Sanders, J.R. Smith, Pistons

Kyrie Irving exploded for 57 points in an overtime win for the Cavs against the Spurs on Thursday. Even before that, it was clear that Irving has maintained his value as the talent around him has improved, as Bradford Doolittle of ESPN.com wrote in an insider-only piece before Thursday’s game. Cleveland signed Irving to a five-year maximum-salary extension this past summer. Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • There’s been a ton of conflicting information about the precise amount of Larry Sanders‘ buyout and whether the Bucks used the stretch provision, but Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders confirms that Milwaukee indeed spread the remainder of his deal over seven years (Twitter link). The Bucks will pay him $1,865,546 a year from 2015/16 all the way through 2021/22, which jibes with what Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times reported last week when he said Sanders would receive approximately $1.9MM. That means the Bucks have only about $2.266MM on the books for 2016/17, vaulting them into third place for the most cap flexibility for the summer of 2016, when the cap is set to spike to about $90MM. Sanders is getting $9,005,882 this season, as Pincus shows on the Basketball Insiders Bucks salary page. So, he gave up precisely $21,935,296 of his $44MM contract.
  • J.R. Smith has a player option worth nearly $6.4MM for next season, and while he hasn’t decided on whether to exercise that, he seems to want a long-term future with the Cavs, as Joe Vardon of the Northeast Ohio Media Group details. “I am enjoying myself more here than anywhere I’ve been,” Smith said. “I want to be here, hopefully we can have the same team next year if everything goes well.”
  • Pistons owner Tom Gores isn’t dismayed even as his team once more slips from playoff contention, as MLive’s David Mayo relays. “The thing is, Stan [Van Gundy] has a plan,” Gores said. “The guys we lost at the All-Star break, it was hard to lose them. They were part of the culture. But we’re trying to build for the future now and we believe in everything that’s going on.”
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune delves into Tom Thibodeau‘s relationship with Bulls management, among other Bulls-related issues, in a mailbag column.
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