Eastern Rumors: Johnson, Magic, Butler

Pistons rookie forward Stanley Johnson fired back at Kevin Durant after the Thunder superstar small forward ripped ex-teammate Reggie Jackson for his antics during Detroit’s win over Oklahoma City this week, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press writes. Thunder guard Russell Westbrook was furious about what he felt was excessive celebration by Jackson, and Durant, who was rested for the game, concurred with Westbrook when interviewed by a media throng on Thursday. Durant then dismissed Detroit as a lightweight team. “I wanted to play against Detroit, for sure, but you know, it’s Detroit,” Durant said. “Who cares about Detroit?” Johnson felt Durant “disrespected our whole team” while promising to Ellis and other Pistons beat writers, “No one is scared of playing against him on this side of town. Next year we have two games scheduled, and I know, for me, it’s circled on my schedule from now on.”

In other doings around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Magic will need to rely on trades and free agency to make improvements this summer, Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel opines. Orlando has been stuck in a holding pattern in recent seasons, not losing enough games to get a top pick without lottery luck, yet failing to make the postseason, a trend that has continued this season in Schmitz’s view. The draft has become a means to supplement the Magic’s core talent, while the focus is on landing free agents to lead the young team or trading some of those assets for a veteran, Schmitz adds.
  • Bulls shooting guard Jimmy Butler is playing some point guard with Derrick Rose battling injuries and E’Twaun Moore on a minutes restriction, reports K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. Butler was thrust into that role against the Rockets on Thursday when Rose left the game with an elbow injury and will continue to receive minutes at that spot if Rose has to miss games, Johnson adds. “Jimmy was terrific with the ball, made a lot of great plays to get guys baskets and also a lot of hockey assists, where he just would pass the ball, get it moving, then we would make the extra one [for] an open look,” Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg told Johnson and the assembled media.
  • The Knicks will lean on their younger players the rest of the season, including a backcourt of rookie Jerian Grant and Langston Galloway, according to Fred Kerber of the New York Post. Grant made his first start while Galloway had a team-high 18 points in a win over the Nets on Friday. “If things are going well with the young guys, we’ll keep extending their minutes, giving them as much time as possible,” interim coach Kurt Rambis told Kerber and other members of the New York media. “And [the veterans] were all OK with that.”

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